Prenatal Genetic Counseling

If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and have personal or family history of certain genetic diseases, you may wish to consider genetic counseling.

As a member of your healthcare team, the prenatal genetic counselor will

  • Assess your risk or rule out having a child with a birth defect or genetic condition.
  • Talk with you about your family and medical histories.
  • Explain the causes of genetic conditions and help you understand the risks.
  • Review and discuss options for prenatal screening and testing.
  • Prepare you for the birth of a child with special needs and discuss the challenges your baby may face.
  • Offer guidance to help you make informed choices.

Prenatal genetic counseling should be considered if you have any of the following risk factors.

  • Family or personal history of birth defects or genetic conditions.
  • Previous child with a birth defect or genetic disorder.
  • Abnormal results from routine prenatal testing.
  • Two or more pregnancy losses, a stillbirth, or a baby who died
  • Use of certain medicines around the time of conception
  • Diabetes before getting pregnant
  • Other test results that suggest a genetic condition is present
  • A woman who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant at 35 years or older
  • Increased risk of getting or passing on a genetic disorder because of one’s ethnic background

Genetic Counseling for Cancer

Some kinds of cancers run in families and genetic counseling can determine what diseases may be inherited or increase your risk for hereditary cancer.

As a member of your healthcare team, the genetic counselor will

  • Review your family medical history and assess your risk for hereditary cancers.
  • Explain the risk of hereditary cancers and the chance of finding a mutation through genetic testing.
  • Discuss the benefits and limitations of genetic testing.
  • Interpret genetic test results and explain what they mean for you.
  • Review and discuss the medical management options available to you.
  • Help you make an informed decision about genetic testing and follow-up care.

Genetic counseling and testing may be considered when the following factors are present:

  • Personal and/or family medical history indicates a genetic predisposition to cancer.
  • You or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50.
  • A close relative has experienced more than one cancer, such as breast cancer involving both breasts or breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Multiple generations of a family have been diagnosed with cancer.
  • Known genetic mutation in the family (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2).

Genetic Counseling and Testing for BRCA

Genetic tests can check for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.  Women who have inherited these gene mutations face a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

If you test positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, there are things you can do to decrease your risks.