Should You Speak to a Genetic Counselor Before Getting Pregnant?

Choosing to start a family can be a complex decision for many. You need to balance your desire to have a baby with an assortment of real-life concerns about raising one. For some, a real concern is the risk of passing on a genetic disorder to their child. If this is an issue for you, a genetic counselor can be helpful.

Genetic or “hereditary” conditions are diseases that run in families. If you or your partner has a parent or grandparent with one of these types of conditions, there is an increased chance that your baby is predisposed to developing it as well. 

couple meets with a genetic counselor at Jamaica Hospital

Genetic counselors are specialists that can help you understand the causes of genetic conditions, what types of screenings and diagnostic tests are available to you, and what your chances are of having a baby with a genetic condition. In addition, genetic counselors can help potential parents deal with how genetic conditions can affect your family emotionally.

Genetic counselors can help determine the likelihood of your baby developing a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Single gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease or hemophilia
  • Chromosomal abnormalities that can lead to conditions such as Down syndrome
  • Complex disorders such as heart defects, spina bifida, or cleft palate which can be caused by a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental factors

There are multiple factors that can increase a person’s risk of passing along a genetic disorder, including:

  • A family history of a genetic disorder
  • A prior child with a genetic disorder
  • One parent with a chromosomal abnormality
  • Advanced maternal age (35 or older)
  • Advanced paternal age (40 or older)
  • Multiple miscarriages or prior stillbirth

To help prepare for your appointment, a genetic counselor may ask you to collect the medical histories of you and your partner’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings, including a history of birth defects in your family. You may also be asked to provide a history of all other known medical conditions in your family, the age at which your family members were diagnosed and of any deaths resulting from these conditions.

If you are planning a pregnancy a genetic counselor can help you assess your risk-factors, review testing options, provide education and resources, and help you make informed decisions.

To make an appointment with a genetic counselor at Jamaica Hospital’s Women’s Health Center, please call 718-291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.