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What Does a Genetic Counselor Do?

Updated on March 2, 2015
A genetic counselor can help you understand important areas to do with your unborn child
A genetic counselor can help you understand important areas to do with your unborn child | Source

Introduction

Genetic counseling involves understanding the possible genetic conditions that could affect a couple's potential children. Genetic counselors use a combination of medical tests, research and family history to identify the likelihood and impact of certain conditions affecting an unborn child. In this article we explore what genetic counselors do, their responsibilities and how they can assist parents in making informed decisions, including:

  • Techniques that genetic counselors use
  • Understanding the risks of a genetic condition
  • Responsibilities of a genetic counselor

Techniques that genetic counselors use

A genetics counselor uses various techniques to understand the possible genetic and hereditary conditions that could affect a child; these techniques include:

  • Analyzing blood and other genetic tissue from one or both parents.
  • Analyzing blood and other genetic tissue from an unborn child.
  • Analyzing blood and other genetic tissue from siblings.
  • Using other medical techniques and examinations to identify potential conditions.
  • Understanding any history of genetic or other conditions in a parent's ancestors.
  • Research and analysis of likelihood and risks of genetic conditions and predisposition.

Analyzing biological material from the parents and child can reveal important clues about the child's likely genetic makeup
Analyzing biological material from the parents and child can reveal important clues about the child's likely genetic makeup | Source

Understanding the risks of a genetic condition

The counselor will then use the results of the analysis and research to identify the risks of a child being born with a genetic condition, these conditions could include:

  • Downs Syndrome.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy.
  • Some kidney diseases.
  • Some other hereditary or inherited conditions.

Although a genetics counselor mainly focuses on the possible conditions that child could be born with, in some cases they can also diagnose if a genetic condition could affect someone later in life.

A genetic counselor will work closely with parents to ensure the best for their child
A genetic counselor will work closely with parents to ensure the best for their child | Source

Responsibilities of a genetic counselor

The responsibilities of a genetics counselor include:

  • Understanding the risks of certain types of genetic conditions being present.
  • Accurately communicating their findings and potential issues to prospective parents.
  • Guiding prospective parents through their options and choices.
  • Helping prospective parents minimize risks and manage genetic conditions.

Another aspect of genetic counseling is that genetic counselors can also identify possible genetic conditions in a parent, based on the parent's DNA, RNA and genetic fingerprint.

Talking about the role of a genetic counselor

Would you consider using a genetic counselor to understand if your child might have future problems?

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In closing

Genetic counseling can be a controversial field of study, due to the wealth of genetic information that is available and the possible ethical and moral considerations that need to be taken into account.

Despite this, a number of prospective parents do decide to have the necessary tests completed so that they can better understand the possible impact of genetic conditions and the to help them manage these conditions if they should occur.

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