You're ready to start a family, but there's one question that keeps surfacing: is it possible you will pass on a certain medical condition to your offspring? If you know of a family history of a genetic disorder or disease in your family, this is a valid concern. A lot of couples decide against having children simply because the fear of passing on a condition is too great. Thankfully, science and health care have advanced enough that you don't have to go into this new step blindly. Genetic counseling is a great way to approach this concern. It will help you understand and cope with the risk that a child could inherit a disease or disorder.
What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling is a growing service, but most people aren't familiar with it until they need it. Genetic counseling is available to anyone, not just those starting a family. It is a way to look at your health history and determine the likelihood of developing or passing on certain genes, traits and disorders through genetic testing.
Once potential problems are identified, the counseling part comes in to play. Your genetic counselor will discuss the ways inherited disorders will affect you and your family. You will receive counsel on the likelihood of passing on a genetic disease. If there is anything you and your partner can do to prevent the development of a disorder, that will also be reviewed at this time.
When is Genetic Counseling Available?
Genetic counseling isn't just for preconception. It is available throughout the pregnancy and afterwards, as well. In many instances, couples don't hear about genetic counseling until after they are expecting and have had some basic screenings.
Pregnancy screenings help the OB/GYN determine if your child is developing normally or if there is something to be concerned about. If concerns arise, genetic counselors are available to help you and your partner through it. Keep in mind that not all screenings that show poor results are accurate – sometimes the development of the fetus is slower than anticipated, but during that time the potential problem fixes itself.
Can Genetic Counseling Help me Raise a Family?
Developmental screenings start with your first doctor's visit – whether that is before or after conception. They continue at close intervals until your child starts kindergarten. At each check-up, the pediatrician will ask about physical and mental capabilities of your child. For example: Can your 6-month old sit up without aid? Does your 18-month old use at least 6 words each day?
The way these questions are answered will help determine if genetic counseling is necessary as you and your partner raise a family. If your child seems behind developmentally, then a genetic counselor might be recommended. This doesn't mean that your child has a disorder, but the counselor will help you discover new ways to encourage your child's growth. Whether it's verbal games or working on coordination, a genetic counselor will help you determine whether or not your child needs further testing. And, of course, if a genetic disability is found, the counselor will continue to work with you to understand the disorder and provide the best care for your child.
Genetic counseling is a great place to start when it comes to growing your family. If you have any concerns about your or your partner's health history, a genetic counselor will recommend testing to help determine the likelihood of passing on a gene to your offspring. Once this has been determined, regular screenings are used to monitor the development of your child from the womb to the first day of school. Whenever a concern arises, genetic counselors can help you make the best choices to encourage the growth of your child and the wellbeing of your family. For more information on genetic testing, check out companies like Courtagen Life Sciences.