Prenatal genetic counseling can give you information about your child’s risk of having a genetic disorder or birth defect.

Women's Health | one month ago

Attention Moms-to-Be: Here’s What You Need to Know About Prenatal Genetic Counseling

Prenatal genetic counseling can give you information about your child’s risk of having a genetic disorder or birth defect. This very important service is helpful for families who may have existing high-risk conditions or have an interest in learning about available genetic technologies. Teresa Brady, genetic counselor at Atrium Health CMC Women’s Institute, responds to some of the most frequently asked questions about genetic counseling and what you can expect throughout the process.

Genetic counseling can play a significant role before and during pregnancy for expecting families. It can provide vital information to determine your child’s risk of a birth defect or genetic condition. Your genetic counselor provides expert information on testing options and resources to help you and your provider plan for your unique pregnancy journey.

Teresa Brady, genetic counselor in Maternal Fetal Medicine at Atrium Health CMC Women’s Institute expands upon the basics of genetic counseling by responding to some of the most frequently asked questions, including who qualifies and where you can receive services.

Q1: How does genetic counseling help patients? What is the benefit?

A1 | Brady: Board-certified genetic counselors provide information in a caring, supportive manner when it matters most. The personalized consultations assist women and couples in making informed decisions about how to best care for a current or future pregnancy. Comprehensive genetic counseling services ensure patient’s questions are addressed.

Information provided from the consult and genetic testing results can help providers identify the best care plan for a woman and her pregnancy. Women seen at the Women’s Institute will continue their prenatal care through their health care provider or current OB-GYN.   

Q2: What qualifications does a genetic counselor have and what can I expect from them?

A2 | Brady: Prenatal genetic counselors have specialized training in genomics and counseling through a masters-level training program and achieve national board certification. A genetic counselor will obtain and review detailed family history information from patients as well as evaluate relevant medical records. From there, information about risks to a pregnancy and available resources and testing options will be discussed.

Patients who are currently pregnant will also have an ultrasound evaluation and a consult with a maternal fetal medicine specialist physician. Information will then be forwarded to the patient’s provider to best care for her and her pregnancy.     

Q3: When would a patient need genetic counseling?

A3 | Brady: Any woman, regardless of age, who has questions about genetic screening or diagnostic testing options is eligible for genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can be especially beneficial for women with:

  • Known risk factors, including maternal age, family history of a genetic condition or birth defect, multiple miscarriages or maternal conditions
  • Questions about medication use or exposures during pregnancy
  • Prenatal screening test or ultrasound indicating a pregnancy has an increased risk for a genetic condition
  • Questions about ancestry-specific screening or general population screening for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease

Q4: Do patients have to ask for genetic counseling?

A4 | Brady: Women can request a referral to our center from their health care provider. Appointments can be made at one of our three Women’s Institute locations listed on our website:

Q5: When is this done?  Prior to a pregnancy or during?

A5 | Brady: Genetic counseling can be elected prior to or during pregnancy.  Considering these services before or in early pregnancy may allow patients and their providers to best optimize the care plan for a pregnancy.  Genetic counseling can also be elected prior to and/or after genetic testing. 

Q6: Along with reproductive and prenatal, what other genetic counseling specialties are available through the Atrium Health system?

A6 | Brady: Genetic counseling services are available through Atrium Health in a variety of specialties.

Q7: Do I have to follow the plan suggested by my genetic counselor?

A7 | Brady: While patients may elect to proceed with options discussed by the genetic counselor, these services are non-directive. Patients are provided relevant information and can accept or decline the available testing options provided. Some patients elect to proceed with the consult only.

To learn more about prenatal counseling services, contact your Women’s Care provider to discuss the best options for you.