Genetics play an extremely significant role in your health. By evaluating factors like family health and medical history, genetic counseling helps you make empowered decisions when it comes to the things that can potentially influence your health.
What Is a Genetic Counselor?
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional that is specially trained in medical genetics as well as counseling. A genetic counselor can evaluate a multitude of factors that have the potential to affect you or your child’s health. Through careful evaluation, genetic counselors can help families understand the risk of passing on genetic conditions to future children.
A genetic counselor can also provide important information about the testing process—including non-invasive prenatal testing, comprehensive carrier screening, and more. Genetic counselors can help determine the emotional and health benefits of testing and educate patients about prevention, diagnostic, and treatment options, regardless of the results.
Types of Genetic Counseling Include:
- Reproductive genetic counseling. Reproductive counselors focus on family medical histories as well as the compatibility of a couple’s genes. This counseling is often used before and during a pregnancy for those with infertility or chromosomal issues.
- Pediatric genetic counseling. This type of counseling focuses on a child’s health and helps families understand the impact that certain health conditions might have on their child’s life.
- Hereditary cancer counseling. This counseling is recommended for those who want to assess the risk of inherited cancer and can be done before or during pregnancy. Hereditary cancer counseling can also supply support preventive care for those who have received cancer diagnoses.
How to Prepare for Your Meeting
Before meeting with a genetic counselor, they will need insight about your genetic history. Depending on the nature of your concerns, your genetic counselor may request the following documents or notes:
- A list of specific genetic conditions and cancers that have affected members of your family, along with their ages at diagnosis
- A list of all biological family members and their current ages or age at the time of death
- Your complete medical history, including test results
What To Expect When Meeting with a Genetic Counselor
During an appointment, your genetic counselor will ensure you understand all the potential genetic information regarding yourself and your pregnancy. Together, you will evaluate your family’s medical history and other genetic factors that can play a role in your health. The genetic counselor will make sure that you understand the basics of DNA and genetics, so you are prepared to make educated decisions about them.
Your counselor will also review the available genetic screenings as well as how each may apply to your situation. Oftentimes, genetic counselors can help you determine whether you can expect insurance to cover the cost of testing. If you decide to undergo screening or testing, you’ll need to schedule a followup appointment with the counselor. At that time, your counselor can review the results with you so that you understand them and discuss next steps for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment.
Genetic counselors can serve as an invaluable resource during pregnancy. They can also serve as a long-term resource to help you build a family with confidence.