Should We Have Genetic Counseling Before Trying to Conceive?
Most couples are excited about the idea of getting pregnant, but worries can easily creep in about whether the baby will be healthy or not. Many couples do not undergo genetic counseling before trying to conceive. However, couples who have risk factors may want to consider it. Genetic testing is used to help couples determine the likelihood of a child inheriting certain diseases. Some of the genetic disorders that may be inherited include cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, spina bifida, and sickle cell disease. If anyone in either side of the family has had any of these diseases it might be worthwhile to seek out genetic counseling to be aware of any risks that might exist for future children.
What Happens at Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling involves genetic testing, evaluating medical records and family history, and evaluating the results of the findings. Parents are also advised on the results and helped to understand what risk factors might be present and why.
Generally, small tissue and/or blood samples will be taken and evaluated for specific genes that could result in inherited disorders. Each chromosome is made up of tens of thousands of genes. An error in even a single gene can be enough to cause a serious health condition. There are some diseases that can be passed down from only one parent, like Marfan syndrome or Huntington’s disease. Then, there are other disorders that require both parents to pass the gene including Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis to name a few.
Then, there are certain genetic disorders that are not inherited but rather result form a cell mutation, like Down Syndrome, or something like achondroplasia that may be from genetic mutation or inherited.
The results from genetic testing are not always easy to understand. Some tests may show that one or both parents are carriers for certain diseases and that any future children will have a certain percentage chance of having that condition. Genetic counselors are well trained to handle these situations and help potential parents understand the risks and the odds.