Benefits Of Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling consists of evaluating any risks you may carry for passing an inherited disease on to your future children. The evaluation is done by a specialist in this field. He will have received training and qualification in helping to identify families at risk, assess information about medical conditions, evaluate the risk for recurrences, and educate you about your choices.

Birth Defects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 3% of U.S. babies are born with a birth defect. This is a very small percentage. Since these defects are the exception rather than the rule, most couples who plan to conceive a child won't need to go for genetic counseling. But if you have one or more of the following risk factors, it's a good idea to make an appointment:

*One of you has had a child who was born with a birth defect or a genetic disorder

*A close relative suffers from an inherited disease

*The woman who wishes to conceive is past the age of 35

*You're an African American (Sickle Cell Anemia)

*You're an Ashkenazi Jew (Tay-Sachs disease)

*You're of Middle Eastern, Italian, or Greek heritage (Thalassemia)

Family History

While receiving your genetic counseling, you can expect to be working on building a complete picture of you and your partner's family medical history. The focus will be on any diseases that have affected your families and why these diseases may have developed. Here follows some of the questions you can expect from your genetic counselor:

*Do you have any ideas about why you suspect you may conceive a child with a birth defect?

*Do you have any relatives who suffer from mental retardation or other birth defects?

*Are both your parents living and in good health?

*Do you have family members who suffer from genetic diseases, for instance hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, or muscular dystrophy?

*What is your ethnicity?

*Are there diseases in your family that appear to be inherited?

*Do you now or have you ever had cancer, hypertension, multiple births, or diabetes?

*Have any of your relatives had difficult pregnancies?

By now, you may be considering that you really don't know much about genes after all. The gene is the part of you that carries your special code. This code dictates your special traits, such as the color of your eyes. Genes exist in formations that create unique chromosomal patterns. They serve as the blueprint for all of your physical and biological characteristics. The genes are the building blocks of your inherited identity.

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