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The Importance Of Genetic Counseling - Genetic Counseling During Pregnancy

Genetic Counseling is sought by certain couples who consider it as part of pregnancy planning. During a genetic counseling session the family history plus personal medical history of the couple will be examined. The objective of a genetic counseling session is to diagnose, identify risk factors, and explain health risks if any and its effects to the couple making them understand the risk if any to their pregnancies. They may guide you to support groups to help you deal better with any condition that has been identified. This session during pre pregnancy planning will alert you to the possible disorders that you may pass on to your child. This will help you decide if you want to start a family and alert you to any possible problems that may affect the infant that you plan to have.

When to Consider Genetic Counseling

  • If the age of the woman is more than 35 years
  • If the couple is closely related to each other
  • If they have a birth defect or disorder themselves such as cystic fibrosis
  • If they have a child who is mentally retarded
  • If they have a child who has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder
  • If they have a history of miscarriages or still born babies
  • If they have previous instances of SID
  • If they have exposure to hazardous teratogens
  • If they have infertility related problems
  • If they have a family history of any disease condition
  • If there is physical deformity in a parent
  • If the family has early onset of diseases such as heart disorders, Alzheimer's, etc.
  • If they have a history of epilepsy
  • If they have infections during pregnancy

If the counselor feels it is necessary certain tests such as carrier tests and screening tests may be performed. In carrier test the parents are tested for conditions such as Thalassemia which is a blood disorder primarily affecting those of the Mediterranean, African and Southern Asian descent; Cystic fibrosis which is a disease of the lungs and digestive system that is common in Caucasians; Sickle cell disease which is a blood disorder that mainly affects African-Americans; and Tay-Sachs disease which causes fatal brain damage and is more common in people of Eastern European Jewish ancestry. Conditions such as Huntington's disease and hemophilia too can be identified. Screening tests will eliminate the need to perform intrusive diagnostic tests during pregnancy.

Some couples are referred for genetic counseling during the pre pregnancy stage to alert them about possible health issues due to exposure to teratogens such as harmful chemicals, heavy metals, radiations, drug, and alcohol/substance abuse. This may help alert them to any possible risks that may exist and prepare them to receive counseling on how to create an environment that is safe for the parents and child.

Some genetic screening tests that are performed during pregnancy are the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test to detect birth defects such as neural tube defect, spina bifida and anencephaly. Ultrasound tests can identify spina bifida, heart defects, and malformations of the head, face, body, and limbs. Amniocentesis is used to detect genetic and developmental disorders. Chorionic villus sampling helps detect down's syndrome etc.

Many couples are daunted by the costs, but there are many agencies that offer financial aid. The cost of genetic counseling varies ranging between $150 and $2000 but is usually within $100 and $300. Many health insurance policies cover the costs.

In the event that the tests [you can have them repeated elsewhere] are not too good, you always have the option of adopting a child. Not only will you get to be parents of a healthy baby, you will be giving the baby what it needs the most, a family who cares for it and who loves it.

A genetic counseling session need not be frightening, think about it in a positive way. You are in the process of creating the right environment for your child, make extra sure that the baby is healthy.

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