Genetic Counseling

Helpful information on genetic counseling

Since genetic counseling is relatively new on the prenatal scene, many people are still unclear on the process and its value. A genetic counselor has a Master of Science degree in genetic counseling, which certifies them by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Not only are they well-versed in biology and genetics, but genetic counselors are superb educators that can translate complex terms and ideas into information that everyone can understand. Since genetic conditions can present before birth, during childhood or into adulthood, counselors work at all types of specialty medical centers.


Genetic counseling is a valuable aspect of prenatal medicine, but it may not be right for you and your baby. In some cases, the time, money and emotional expense that you must commit simply outweigh the possible benefits. However, it's important to understand both sides of the issue before you choose which path to take.

Definition of Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling involves three basic steps. The process begins with the evaluation of family medical history to determine the likelihood that a genetic disorder will be passed on to the baby. Next, the counselor will decide which genetic tests should be used (if any), and inform the parents about the prevention and management of the condition in question. Finally, they'll work with the parents to help them understand the findings and reach sound decisions based on the results. In this way, a genetic counselor addresses the medical, emotional and psychological aspects of a high risk pregnancy.

Pros and Cons of Genetic Disorder Counseling

Since it surrounds the health of an unborn child, it's no surprise that there's controversy in genetic counseling. One clear advantage of genetic counseling is the early prediction of various birth defects, which offers parents the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy if they decide that would be best, or else begin to prepare for raising a child with a disability. In some cases, like spina bifida, early detection will also allow your doctor to adjust care and delivery to minimize the chances of severe disability. If you are over 35, have a family history of inherited disease or already have a child with a birth defect, you should gather more information on genetic counseling and consider meeting with a counselor before you become pregnant or in the early stages of your pregnancy.

On the other hand, sometimes more information brings more problems. For one, some family members may want to know the results while others prefer not to know, and it can be tough to appease everyone. Then there's the possibility of an ethical dilemma that comes with early detection: if the pregnancy continued without any knowledge of the disorder, the child would be born and raised according to their needs, but the early discovery of the disorder could prompt some mothers to consider ending the pregnancy. Finally, undesirable results will often bring a wave of depression and worry, even though they're often not 100 percent reliable. In the end, genetic counseling is a weighty issue, one that should not be decided without care, research and discussion with your partner and family.