Preconception and Prenatal Genetic Counseling: What to Expect
Preparing for the Visit
Genetic counseling sessions include a detailed pregnancy history and family history assessment. It can be useful to clarify family health history information prior to genetic counseling, particularly if there is concern about a specific condition in the family.
The genetic counselor asks questions about the health of the patient or couple as well as their children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Questions that a genetic counselor might ask about family health history include:
- Is there anyone in the family who was born with a known genetic condition, birth defect, or intellectual disability?
- For the individual(s) in the family with a known genetic condition, was genetic testing performed? Is a test report available?
- Is there anyone in the family who has had three or more miscarriages?
- Are there any babies or adults in the family who passed away suddenly with no known cause?
- Are you and your partner’s families related by blood?
In addition to discussing the family history, it’s helpful for the genetic counselor to have copies of any previous genetic testing results for the patient or pregnancy. These may have been sent with the genetic counseling referral, or they can be brought in by the patient.
During the Visit
During a genetic counseling session, patients meet with one of our genetic counselors either virtually or in person. Sessions typically last 30 to 45 minutes. The visits include:
- Reviewing a detailed pregnancy history and family history
- Discussing genetic test results or ultrasound findings
- Assessing the risk for inherited or sporadic genetic conditions based on personal or family history, age, or previous test results
- Discussing options for additional genetic testing
- Coordinating any testing desired by the patient or couple
Patients have the opportunity to ask questions during the visit and to remain in contact with their genetic counselor afterward.
Genetic tests for the patient or partner are typically done via blood or saliva. Some genetic tests for a pregnancy can be done via maternal blood or ultrasound. Others require procedures to obtain a sample of amniotic fluid (amniocentesis) or biopsy of the placenta (chorionic villus sampling) for genetic testing of the pregnancy.
Test results are provided over the phone by the genetic counselor and are available in a patient’s UT Southwestern MyChart account.