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What Does Genetic Counseling for Pregnancy Involve?

Prenatal genetic counselors help you understand your baby’s genetic health

Pregnancy-related (prenatal) counseling is the most common reason people see genetic counselors. You might see a genetic counselor before becoming pregnant or while you are pregnant. You might seek genetic counseling:

  • Before you have testing
  • If you are worried about a family history of birth defects
  • If you are 35 or older
  • If your doctor recommended having standard prenatal screening for conditions such as Down syndrome or spina bifida
  • After you receive concerning test results

During your visit, your genetic counselor will:

  • Ask what you hope to learn during the visit and what concerns you may have about your pregnancy, and then map out a plan for the session
  • Explore your medical and family health history
  • Discuss your risk of having a child with a genetic condition, based on family health history and medical information
  • Clarify genetic screening and testing options before and during pregnancy, and explain the benefits and downsides of testing
  • Help you understand what test results mean
  • Explain options available to you if you choose to test and if the test results suggest an increased risk of a genetic condition
  • Give you emotional support, offer additional resources and follow up with you as needed

Ideally, you will see a genetic counselor before having any genetic testing, so that the counselor can explain what tests can tell you and help you think through whether you would like to proceed.

It’s best to bring your spouse, partner or another support person with you to the appointment to listen, take notes and ask questions you might not think of.

To learn more about what your genetic counseling appointment will be like, watch this video that shows a simulated prenatal genetic counseling session.

This video was created by the National Society of Genetic Counselors as part of a Master Genetic Counseling Program and was made possible through the generous support of the Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship.

Learn more about what genetic counselors do and what happens during a visit.

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