What Is Genetic Counseling and Who Needs It?

Many hereditary or genetic conditions run in families. If you have a grandparent or parent with a serious health condition, you may want to know whether you could pass along the condition to your baby. This is the reason many people today consider genetic counseling.


What Is Genetic Counseling?


Genetic counseling is the process of ordering genetic tests to determine the likelihood of parents passing a genetic condition to their kids. A genetic counselor checks your family’s medical records and histories, orders genetic tests, and then evaluates the test results. They will then help you decide what to do next.


Genetic counselors do more than just help people understand the likelihood of a genetic condition passing from one generation to another. They can also play an important role in helping people deal with the emotional side of how hereditary conditions or disorders can affect a family.


What Are Genes?


Made up of DNA molecules, genes group together in specific patterns within your chromosomes. They form the unique blueprint for all your biological and physical characteristics. Human beings have 46 chromosomes. When the sperm and egg join at conception, half of each pair of chromosomes comes from each parent.


This new chromosomal combination then copies itself continuously during fetal growth and development. In the process, it passes identical genetic information to each cell in the developing fetus. According to current science, humans have about 25,000 genes in each cell. Serious genetic conditions can sometimes stem from an error in just one gene.


Who Needs Genetic Counseling?


Pregnant Women and Those Planning for Pregnancy


Most couples who are expecting or planning to have a baby do not need genetic counseling. But according to the CDC, about 3 percent of babies born every year have birth defects. Many of these defects are treatable. For example, clubfoot, cleft palate, and many heart defects are some of the most common but treatable birth defects.


The best time for genetic counseling is before conception. A genetic counselor will help you understand any possible risk factors. However, you can still meet a genetic counselor during pregnancy. According to experts, all pregnant women, regardless of circumstance or age, should get genetic testing to screen for Down syndrome.


Kids Showing Signs of a Disorder


If your child is showing signs of a genetic disorder, genetic counseling can help address your concerns. Some signs and symptoms of a genetic disorder you need to watch out for include:


  • Hearing or vision problems

  • Abnormal screening results

  • Autism spectrum disorders

  • Developmental or intellectual disabilities

  • Birth defects


Adults Looking to Manage Their Health


Genetic counseling can be helpful for adults to address specialty areas such as cancer, psychiatric, and cardiovascular. It can be helpful if you have a family history or symptoms of a condition that makes you more likely to develop certain conditions. These include inherited blood disorders, hereditary ovarian and breast cancer, inherited movement disorders, Lynch syndrome, and muscular dystrophy.


Genetic testing and counseling can help you understand your risk factors and treatment options. It can also help you deal with any emotional concerns. Your genetic counselor may also refer you to the appropriate healthcare providers, support groups, or advocacy groups.


To learn more about genetic counseling, contact Partners in Obstetrics & Women’s Health at our office in New Lenox, Illinois. You can call us at (815) 240-0554 today to schedule an appointment.

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