What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling gives you information about how genetic conditions might affect you or your family. The genetic counselor or other healthcare professional will collect your personal and family health history. They can use this information to determine how likely it is that you or your family member has a genetic condition. Based on this information, the genetic counselor can help you decide whether a genetic test might be right for you or your relative.
Reasons for Genetic Counseling
Based on your personal and family health history, your doctor can refer you for genetic counseling. There are different stages in your life when you might be referred for genetic counseling:
- Planning for Pregnancy: Genetic counseling before you become pregnant can address concerns about factors that might affect your baby during infancy or childhood or your ability to become pregnant, including
- During Pregnancy: Genetic counseling while you are pregnant can address certain tests that may be done during your pregnancy, any detected problems, or conditions that might affect your baby during infancy or childhood, including
- History of infertility, multiple miscarriages, or stillbirth
- Previous pregnancy or child affected by a birth defect or genetic condition
- Abnormal test results, such as a blood test, ultrasound, Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS), or amniocentesis
- Maternal infections, such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and other exposures such as medicines, drugs, chemicals, and x-rays
- Genetic screening that is recommended for all pregnant women, which includes cystic fibrosisexternal icon, sickle cell disease, and any conditions that run in your family or your partner’s family
- Caring for Children: Genetic counseling can address concerns if your child is showing signs and symptoms of a disorder that might be genetic, including
- Managing Your Health: Genetic counseling for adults includes specialty areas such as cardiovascular, psychiatric, and cancer. Genetic counseling can be helpful if you have symptoms of a condition or have a family history of a condition that makes you more likely to be affected with that condition, including
- Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome
- Lynch syndrome (hereditary colorectal and other cancers)
- Familial hypercholesterolemia
- Muscular dystrophy and other muscle diseases
- Inherited movement disorders such as Huntington’s diseaseexternal icon
- Inherited blood disorders such as sickle cell disease
Following your genetic counseling session, you might decide to have genetic testing. Genetic counseling after testing can help you better understand your test results and treatment options, help you deal with emotional concerns, and refer you to other healthcare providers and advocacy and support groups.
There are various ways to access genetic counseling services, including in person, by phone, and by video conference.
Find a genetic counselorexternal icon using the National Society of Genetic Counselors directory.
Find a genetics clinicexternal icon using the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics Genetics Clinics Database.
Disclaimer: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not provide counseling, diagnoses, or personal medical advice. Please see your healthcare provider for these needs. Linking to a non-federal site does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the site.