Genetic Counseling FAQs

  • What is genetic counseling?
    Who should consider genetic counseling?
    How long does a genetic counseling session last?
    What are the benefits of meeting with a genetic counselor?
    Why would I need to see a prenatal genetic counselor?
    When will my CVS/amniocentesis results be ready?
    Do I still need another blood test after the first trimester screening?
    Why is genetic counseling required before my amniocentesis?  

    What is genetic counseling?
    DNA genetic counselingGenetic counseling involves identifying genetic risks, discussing family history, explaining available testing options and implications of test results, and providing patient education. Genetic counselors act as patient advocates translating medical and scientific knowledge into practical information. In addition, they are available to provide support and resources to anyone who may be at risk for certain inherited conditions or birth defects. A genetic counselor provides this information in a straightforward, unbiased manner and allows the patient to make her own decisions regarding testing options.

    Who should consider genetic counseling?

    • Women age 35 or older at the time of delivery
    • Women with positive serum screening results
    • Women with complications noted on fetal ultrasound
    • Individuals with a family history of an inherited genetic disorder (cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, etc.)
    • Individuals with a family history of chromosome abnormalities, mental retardation, spina bifida, or other birth defects
    • Women with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss
    • Women with prenatal exposure to alcohol, certain medications, and other agents of concern
    • Individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry

    How long does a genetic counseling session last?
    Sessions typically last 20 to 60 minutes. We compile a detailed family history to address any possible genetic concerns in the family. We encourage all patients to ask family members about family health concerns that may affect their baby’s development. Having as much information as possible allows our counselors to provide more accurate risk assessments.

    What are the benefits of meeting with a genetic counselor?
    Genetic counselors help individuals and families make the decisions that are best for them. Information provided to couples on testing in pregnancy can be overwhelming, and a genetic counselor helps to make sense of this information. A genetic counselor does not influence or decide for patients, but rather provides non-biased information and guides them in the decision-making process. They also support families in making necessary social and emotional adjustments after receiving new information. They are available to listen to patients as they experience a variety of emotions and feelings surrounding a diagnosis.

    Why would I need to see a prenatal genetic counselor?
    Couples may speak with a genetic counselor for a variety of reasons, including maternal age of 35 and over, abnormal maternal serum screening testing, abnormal ultrasound findings, being a carrier of a known genetic condition, having a family history of a genetic disorder or birth defect, or a history of recurrent pregnancy loss.

    When will my CVS/amniocentesis results be ready?
    Results from CVS/amniocentesis typically take 10 to 14 days. Preliminary results are sometimes available within 72 hours. A genetic counselor will call you when these results are available.

    Do I still need another blood test after the first trimester screening?
    Yes, all women should consider alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screening for spina bifida and related conditions.

    Why is genetic counseling required before my amniocentesis?
    The genetic counselor will explain what the risks are for your baby, review the benefits and limitations of the available testing options, and help you decide whether the testing is right for you.