Who Should Have Genetic Counseling, and What are the Benefits?

Feb 08, 2023
 Who Should Have Genetic Counseling, and What are the Benefits?
Genetic counseling provides the information you might need when planning a family, managing your health risks, or dealing with an issue related to your DNA. Read more about the benefits of genetic counseling and what to expect from the process.

Understanding your family’s medical history is often the first step in developing a strategy for preventing chronic disease. Unfortunately, you can’t change your DNA. However, genetic counseling can provide the information you need to make informed decisions about you or your children’s health.

The providers at Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC in Glendale, Arizona, combine exceptional medical skills with a passion for women’s health to deliver high quality, personalized care in a professional and comfortable environment.

In this blog, our providers discuss the importance of genetic counseling and the health benefits it offers.

What is genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling provides an in-depth review of genetic conditions that might affect you or your children. It generally consists of reviewing your family’s health history and performing genetic testing.

When it comes to your family’s health history, the genetic counselor asks about any health issues you or any family members have had. They can then compile this and look for trends and anything else that may be relevant.

When it comes to testing, your provider can perform any tests that are pertinent to your situation to look for concerning issues in your DNA. The testing can be done via a cheek swab or blood test.

What conditions can genetic testing predict?

Genetic tests are not always predictive. A positive test for a DNA mutation won’t necessarily mean you’ll develop an illness, and a negative test won’t necessarily mean you’ll be safe from a condition. Instead, with a few exceptions, genetic testing highlights your risk for developing a genetically fueled disease.

For example, having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation won’t guarantee that you’ll develop breast cancer. However, it will mean you’ll have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, everyone with the gene mutation for Huntington’s will eventually develop the disease.

Positive results may lead to further testing or early screening and treatment for certain types of colorectal cancer, heart disease, and other genetic disorders that tend to run in families.

When should I consider genetic counseling?

Your provider at Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC may recommend genetic counseling for a variety of reasons, including:

Diagnostic testing

Your provider may recommend genetic testing to confirm a suspected diagnosis of Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, or another genetic disorder.

Pre-symptomatic testing

If you have a family history of a genetic disorder, your genetic counselor may recommend testing before you develop symptoms. Early preventive care can significantly reduce your risk of suffering a serious illness.

Carrier testing

Carrier testing identifies potential gene mutations you may pass on to your children, such as sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis, even if you’ve never developed the disease.

Prenatal testing

Prenatal testing includes screening for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 syndrome, and various congenital disabilities that can affect a baby’s health. Instead of amniocentesis, which can pose a risk to the baby, newer versions of prenatal testing analyze a baby's DNA via a blood test done on the mother.

Newborn screening

In the United States, all newborns undergo testing for certain genetic and metabolic abnormalities that cause specific conditions, such as congenital hypothyroidism or sickle cell disease. Identifying these conditions early means treatment can begin right away.

Preimplantation testing

Preimplantation testing, often offered to someone undergoing in vitro fertilization, can identify genetic abnormalities in embryos before they’re implanted into the uterus.

To learn more about genetic counseling and to see if it can help you, call 602-298-8977 or book an appointment online with Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC today.