What is a Genetic Counselor?
A genetic counselor is a health care professional who is academically and clinically prepared to provide genetic counseling services to individuals and families seeking information about the occurrence, or risk of occurrence, of a genetic condition or birth defect. Genetic counselors practice as part of a health care team. They interpret and provide clear and comprehensive information about the risk of any medical condition that may have a genetic contribution. They ascertain the usefulness of genetic technologies for individual families and facilitate an informed decision-making process that elicits and respects the spectrum of personal beliefs and values that exist in society. Certification by ABGC is indicated by the acronym CGC® and ensures that an individual is qualified to provide genetic counseling services.
A genetic counselor is a health professional specially trained to understand and interpret your genetic information and the likely genetic consequences of a pregnancy between you and your partner. Genetic counselors can help you determine if you want to pursue any genetic testing, screening, or preventative measures. A genetic counselor can help you examine and make decisions about genetic factors that might place you at higher risk for having a baby with hereditary diseases or birth defects. Genetic counselors also provide emotional support and can refer you and your family to community or state support services, if needed. Medical conditions that occur or have occurred at some time in your family can be passed on through you. Talking with a genetic counselor is often the first step toward understanding and dealing with your inherited risks. Getting this information while you are planning to get pregnant can help you prepare and make informed decisions throughout your pregnancy.
A genetic counselor is an important member of the perinatal health care team with specialized training in genetics and genetic disease. Because their training is so focused and specialized, the genetic counselor often has access to information and resources not readily available to your doctor. This puts the genetic counselor in the unique position of being able to serve as a liaison among you, your doctor, and the sometimes daunting world of medical genetics. If a diagnosis has been made, genetic counselors provide supportive counseling to families, serve as patient advocates, and refer individuals and families to community or state support services. Often, the genetic counselor interprets medical information and can become a most welcome support person if the information turns out to be stressful or complex.
Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals with specialized graduate degrees and training in medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors may provide genetic counseling in various settings, including prenatal, pediatric, or cancer counseling. Other healthcare providers such as advance practice nurses, oncologists, obstetricians, etc, may have additional training in the field of genetics and provide genetic counseling within the scope of their practice.