Prenatal Genetic Counseling

If you are planning to have a baby and have a personal or family history of certain genetic diseases, you may wish to consider genetic counseling. The ideal time to consider counseling is before you become pregnant (preconception counseling). However, even if you are pregnant, you may benefit from genetic counseling.

Genetic counselors are health professionals with a graduate degree in medical genetics and counseling. They are experienced in answering a family’s many questions clearly and thoroughly, and take the time to discuss problems a baby may face — all with compassion and caring.

People who may benefit from genetic counseling

  • People who have or are concerned they may have an inherited disorder or birth defect
  • Women who have had three or more miscarriages, have a history of a baby who was stillborn or had a baby who died in infancy
  • People who are considering prenatal diagnosis (chronic villus sampling, amniocentesis)
  • Couples who have a child with an inherited disorder, birth defect or mental retardation
  • Couples who would like more information about genetic conditions that are more prevalent in their ethnic group
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant at or after age 35
  • People concerned that their exposure to radiation, chemicals, drugs or infections may pose a risk to pregnancy
  • Couples who are first cousins or other close blood relatives
  • Pregnant women whose ultrasound exam or blood test indicates the pregnancy may be at a higher risk for certain birth defects or complications

Sometimes, the worries and questions about genetic conditions, birth defects and other potential problems with a baby’s health are overwhelming. A genetic counselor can help you make decisions about genetic testing and pregnancy. The counselor will help you gain a basic understanding of genetics and disease and help you understand that your child may — or may not — be born with a certain birth defect or genetic condition.

The genetic counselor will ask you questions about your family medical history and your own medical history. The counselor will assess how this information may affect your children and help you understand any risks of occurrence or recurrence of a condition.

Meet our Genetic Counselors

Kendra Mikulec, MS

Eaves, Kendra, MS, CGC

Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Maternal-Fetal Medicine; Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility
Stachowiak, Samantha, MS, CGC

Stachowiak, Samantha, MS, CGC

Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology; Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Thomsen, Allison, MS, CGC

Thomsen, Allison, MS, CGC

Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Maternal-Fetal Medicine; Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should meet with a genetic counselor?

Anyone who is concerned about diseases or traits in the family should consider genetic counseling and testing.

People who may find it helpful include

  • People who have or are concerned they may have an inherited disorder or birth defect
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to be at or after age 35
  • Couples who have a child with an inherited disorder, birth defect or mental retardation
  • Women who have had three or more miscarriages, or had a baby who died in infancy
  • People concerned that their exposure to radiation, chemicals, drugs or infections may pose a risk to pregnancy
  • Couples who would like more information about genetic conditions that are more prevalent in their ethnic group
  • Couples who are first cousins or other close blood relatives
  • Pregnant women whose ultrasound exam or blood test indicates their pregnancy may be at a higher risk for certain birth defects or complications.

What is the difference between a prenatal screening test and a prenatal diagnostic test?

Prenatal screening tests can provide people with information about the likelihood for certain birth defects and/or chromosomal abnormalities in their baby. These tests typically involve blood draws and/or ultrasounds during pregnancy. There are no major risks to the mother or baby with a screening test. These tests do not provide definitive results.

Prenatal diagnostic tests include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis. They can provide definitive information about the baby’s chromosomes and/or other genetic conditions. These tests involve inserting a thin needle through the woman’s abdomen. In some instances, CVS may involve inserting a catheter through the woman’s cervix. These tests have some risks, the most significant of which is miscarriage.

I have no family history of Down syndrome. What type of risk do I have for having a baby with Down syndrome?

Most people with Down syndrome are the first member in their family to have this condition. Down syndrome is not typically passed on in a family. So, people without a family history of Down syndrome may still have a baby with Down syndrome. The biggest risk factor for having a baby with Down syndrome is the age of the woman. As a woman’s age increases, the chance for having a baby with Down syndrome increases. Rarely, people may have a strong family history of Down syndrome and/or multiple miscarriages. These people may be at greater risk for having a baby with Down syndrome. [/toggle][toggle type=”3″ title=”

Is a prenatal genetic consultation at the Maternal Fetal Care Center covered by health insurance?

Coverage varies by insurance company. Please be sure to check with your insurance company prior to your appointment regarding coverage of consultations with our genetic counselors.

I don’t think I’m interested in having an amniocentesis. Should I still meet with a genetic counselor?

During a genetic counseling visit, you will receive information about a variety of prenatal testing options. Some of these options do not have major risks to mother or baby. A genetic counselor will not require you to have any testing you do not want. Rather, a genetic counselor will provide you with complete information about testing options so you can make decisions that are right for you and your family.