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The importance of prenatal genetic counseling

From the moment a pregnancy is confirmed, an expectant mother is handed a list of medical tests to undergo, ranging from the regular check-ups to track the progress of the foetus through ultrasounds to the various health screenings to check blood sugar levels and blood pressure of the mother-to-be. There’s a whole lot that goes on to ensure that mother and child enjoy a healthy gestation.

Did you know, however, that more and more parents are adding genetic health consultation to the list of tasks to be accomplished before the birth of their child? Yes, the genetic composition of the child can be analysed much before it’s born. This is useful in assessing any genetic conditions that the child is likely to have.

Genetic science has advanced to the extent that some of these conditions can actually be addressed, even corrected before birth. One of the youngest branches of surgery, in fact, is fetal medicine which is only as old as some of the older millennials! Let’s try to understand what exactly genetic counseling is, and what it offers.

What is prenatal genetic counseling?

Prenatal genetic counseling involves understanding the genetic make up of both the parents, and their families, with the intention of arriving at the likelihood of the child inheriting any hereditary conditions that may be detrimental to its health. It takes into consideration factors like the medical history of both sides of the family, ensuring parents are not carriers of common genetic conditions and screening parents for any acquired health issues. This can be done through oral history taking, checking past medical records, ordering specific tests based on findings or concern areas, and evaluating the best solutions if a problem is detected.

While you are at this, also ask the counselor about umbilical cord blood banking. It could be another way to safeguard the health of the child if certain health conditions were to develop in the future.

When to seek genetic counseling?

All expecting couples could undergo the prenatal counseling as it could make them aware of hitherto unknown underlying health conditions. However, there are certain situations that warrant genetic counseling more than others. Some of them include:

Family history

The one obvious reason for a couple to undergo prenatal genetic counseling if certain hereditary conditions run in the family. Sometimes, one of the parents could be a carrier of genes related to it despite not having the said condition. This becomes an even more pressing need if the couple already has a child with some genetic disorder.

Late pregnancy

In case the age of either or both of the parents is over 35 at the time of pregnancy, there are higher chances of certain health conditions to develop in the foetus. It makes sense in such cases to ascertain how high these chances are.

Concerning scans

In some cases, the primary obstetrician might refer a couple to a genetic counselor on the basis of observations during the regular check-ups. This is usually a result of a concerning anomaly that may indicate a developmental delay for the foetus.

Miscarriages or stillbirths

If the couple has experienced a miscarriage or lost a child soon after birth, genetic counseling is in order. The counselor can help you understand the risk factors for current as well as future pregnancies.

Ethnic background

People from certain ethic groups are more likely to inherit diseases like sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and hypothyroidism. Depending on the background of both parents, the child may be predisposed to certain conditions that genetic counseling can help detect.

Dangerous exposure

Other than their own genetics, the environment of the parents and the resulting health complications impact the genetic makeup of the child. This becomes especially concerning if they have been exposed to radiation, consume alcohol, drugs or smoke.

What to do post prenatal genetic counseling?

Once the assessment is done, the parents can be prepared for planning and making the appropriate adjustments required or even chalk out a treatment plan on the basis of what they learn from their counselor ‘s assessment. It gives them time to accept the situation, and go through various scenarios that can crop up. All this helps them make an informed decision that is tailor-made for their situation and family.

Pregnancy and childbirth are processes that are full of uncertainties. Prenatal genetic counseling can be a very empowering exercise that can equip the parents with the knowledge of different options they have in case of many of these uncertain scenarios. Remember, the young science of foetal surgery? That could also be pressed into duty in case of a bleak outcome, and can correct several birth defects in-utero (in the womb) even before the child is born.

So go right ahead, take advantage of the leaps taken by technology in the best interest of your family.

 

Interested in finding out more about cord blood banking in  Singapore? Contact us now through the form on this page or WhatsApp us on +65- 83398482 and let our customer service consultants address your queries. 

More articles on Pregnancy & Maternity Tips:

  1. Balanced pregnancy diet: nutrition is the key
  2. Pre-natal exercises to reduce stress and lower back pain
  3. The hope and scope of cord blood banking
  4. Second trimester of pregnancy: do’s and don’ts

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