Genetic counseling is a type of counseling that helps people to understand the genetic risks associated with certain medical conditions and the likelihood that they will pass these conditions on to their children. Genetic counselors work with individuals or couples who may be at risk for inherited disorders, birth defects, or other genetic conditions, providing information, support, and guidance.
Some examples of situations in which genetic counseling may be recommended include:
- A couple planning to have a child who have a family history of a genetic condition, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, or Huntington's disease.
- Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant who are over the age of 35, as they are at higher risk for having a child with certain chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.
- Individuals who have been diagnosed with a genetic condition or who have a family history of a condition that puts them at risk for certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer.
During genetic counseling sessions, a counselor will take a detailed medical and family history to assess the risk of genetic conditions. They may also order genetic testing to help determine the risk of passing on certain conditions to children. Genetic counselors work with individuals and families to help them understand the results of genetic testing, the likelihood of having a child with a particular condition, and the available options for managing or treating the condition.