As potential new parents, you have probably worried about the chances that your child could develop a birth defect, genetic disorder or other medical condition. Couples dealing with infertility issues may be even more concerned as some times fertility problems are caused by genetic disorders. Due to the fact that each person has 30,000 genes and every person has seven or eight that could be inactive or faulty, there is a chance that you and your partner may have passed faulty genes onto your child.
The Genes In Your Family
A genetic disorder is caused by a gene mutation in pregnancy that is passed down from generation to generation. Occasionally, the signs and symptoms of a genetic disorder do not appear until later in someone’s life. If you are concerned about this and would like to talk to someone knowledgeable on the subject, you only have to find a genetic counselor.
What is a Genetic Counselor?
Usually found in university hospitals or medical centers, genetic counselors have graduate degrees from a variety of fields including medical genetics, biology, genetics, nursing, psychology and social work. They are trained to work with families to provide information and discuss options related to the occurrence of possible genetic disorders or birth defects in your family. Additionally, they can perform genetic testing to evaluate your genes and risk of passing on a genetic disease.
Most people are referred to a genetic counselor through their physician. Typically, there are three areas of genetic counseling: prenatal, pediatric and adult onset.
Who Needs Genetic Counseling?
There are a number of cases where you may be a candidate for prenatal counseling:
- Age 35 or older
- Previous miscarriages or stillbirths
- trouble getting pregnant in the past
- history of genetic disorders in your families
- previous child with birth defects or congenital anomaly
- previous child with genetic disorder
- exposure to drugs, radiation, or chemicals during pregnancy
- irregular ultrasounds
- irregular blood test
- ethnicity susceptible to certain genetic diseases
Pediatric counseling concerns newborns and children who may be at risk for:
- birth defects
- congenital abnormalities (cleft lip/palate, spina bifida, heart defects)
- metabolic disorders (phenylketonuria, galactosemia)
- learning disabilities or autism
- genetic disorders, like Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis
- Sensory disorders (vision, hearing)