Pregnancy is a happy and exciting time for most expecting parents. It is also a time filled with many questions and uncertainties – Is the baby a boy or girl? Who will he or she look like? Will my baby have any health issues?
Most women have normal pregnancies and their babies are born healthy. However, some women have a higher risk of pregnancy complications and/or increased chance of having a baby with a birth defect because of a previously known risk factor or unexpected finding during a routine pregnancy exam. Parents in this high-risk category may find comfort in meeting with a prenatal genetic counselor.
Genetic counselors are trained healthcare professionals who often work with individuals, couples, or families who have an increased chance of having a child with a birth defect or genetic condition. Those who are already pregnant or are thinking about having a child in the future can meet with a prenatal genetic counselor to learn more about the condition in question, understand their risks more clearly, and discuss options for screening and/or testing before or during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, if a baby is found to have a birth defect or genetic condition, the counselor will provide education about the baby’s possible condition and help the expecting couple know what to expect around the time of delivery and after birth.
Those who may benefit from genetic counseling prior to or during pregnancy include:
- Have a child who is affected with a genetic condition and are thinking about having another child in the future
- Have family members with intellectual disability or birth defects
- Have a history of infertility or pregnancy losses (miscarriages or stillbirths)
- Are concerned that your health or lifestyle may make you more at risk
- Are concerned about risks to the pregnancy due to increasing age of either parent
- Receive abnormal lab results or ultrasound results during a pregnancy
- Are concerned that you are at increased risk of being a carrier of a genetic condition because of your ethnic background (some diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups) or family history
- Are pregnant and the baby has been diagnosed with a birth defect or genetic condition
- Have taken a medication or drug during pregnancy or have been exposed to a chemical or possible infection and are concerned that it might cause a problem for the baby