Genetic counseling is the process of determining the risk of passing along a heritable disease to future offspring, and is performed by healthcare professionals called genetic counselors, making up part of the comprehensive healthcare team. Genetic counselors receive specialized graduate school training in the area of medical genetics and counseling, and use those skills to collaborate with both egg donors and hopeful parents in order to educate them on genetic risks and the probability of future offspring inheriting certain genetic disorders. They further interpret and analyze genetic test results from expanded carrier testing and review available options for hopeful families.
“Genetic counselors helps determine the risk of passing along a heritable disease to future offspring.”
During the initial screening of an egg donation cycle, a genetic counselor will meet with both the egg donor and the hopeful parents to discuss individual genetic risks, where genetic testing may be recommended based on combined family histories or ethnic background, as well as interpret genetic test results that may have been performed previously.
It’s helpful to know what to expect during a genetic consultation. Here are some things that might come up:
1. Questions about personal and family medical history.
2. Discussion of the risk of certain genetic conditions affecting future offspring, based on an in-depth evaluation of the combined family histories.
3. Discuss inheritance patterns of certain genetic conditions to learn about how these conditions are passed from one generation to the next.
4. Recommendations regarding tests to be performed in order to help diagnose a particular medical condition, and then explain your test results, once they are available.
In general, the best way to prepare for a genetic consultation is to be forthright regarding one’s own medical information, as well as have access to and understand the health histories of immediate and extended family, including diseases, disorders, and conditions that may run in the family, and the age(s) at which they occurred.
Overall, genetic counseling is a valuable tool in the family planning journey. It can offer insight into one’s own health and the risks for developing certain genetic conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, as well as provides the opportunity to compile a personalized prenatal risk assessment to learn about genetic risks for future offspring, thus allowing hopeful parents to act proactively before conception, rather than reactively after the arrival of a newborn, thus reducing the risk of having a child affected by a genetic condition.