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Genetic Counseling

At the Women & Infants Center, our in-house genetic counselor works closely with our fertility team throughout your journey to parenthood. Whether you’re seeking answers about infertility, pregnancy loss or the health of your future child, you’ll receive expert care with compassion and personal attention. 

We provide you with clear, accurate information about your chances of having a child with a genetic condition, the types of genetic testing available and what your test results mean. This guidance can help you make important health decisions for you and your future child. 

Throughout the process, we treat you with respect and sensitivity, helping you navigate each step and make informed choices.

What Is Genetic Counseling? 

If you are planning to start or add to your family, genetic counseling can help you understand how genetic conditions may affect you or your child. 

Genetic counseling provides education and guidance for: 

  • Genetic conditions and their effects
  • Risks of inheriting genetic conditions
  • Genetic testing options, benefits and limitations
  • Genetic test results and what they mean

Who Sees a Genetic Counselor?

Genetic counseling is available to and beneficial for all of our patients receiving fertility services, even if you have no personal or family history of a genetic condition. You may choose to meet with our genetic counselor if you: 

  • Would like preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) of your embryos
  • Have a genetic condition or chromosomal abnormality or are a carrier of a genetic condition
  • Have a family history of — or a child with — a genetic disorder or health condition
  • Have a history of miscarriages or infertility
  • Want to discuss age-related reproductive risks
  • Plan to use donated sperm, eggs or embryos
  • Have congenital absence of the vas deferens (CAVD)
  • Are genetically related to your partner

Why Choose Us?

At the Women & Infants Center, you are not a condition or a statistic. You receive whole-person care, focusing on your physical and emotional health during the fertility process. You have access to our on-site genetic counseling services, which offer:

  • In-person support: We have the region’s only fertility and reproductive medicine clinic with on-site genetic counseling. You receive in-person guidance and support, from initial consultation through testing and beyond.
  • Comprehensive approach: We evaluate three generations of family history. We identify needs that go beyond the initial concern and select the right laboratory and tests for your situation.
  • Coordinated care: Your certified genetic counselor works directly with your fertility care team, including physicians, nurses, laboratories and embryologists, to deliver a seamless care experience. We also work with other specialists as needed, such as geneticists, to provide the full spectrum of care.

What Conditions Can Genetic Testing Detect?

Genetic tests and screening can detect hundreds of inherited diseases and chromosomal abnormalities, including: 

  • Cystic fibrosis 
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Tay-Sachs disease
  • Blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia
  • Chromosomal abnormalities, such as translocations, when part of one chromosome attaches to another

Genetic Testing Before Pregnancy or Fertility Treatments  

If you are undergoing fertility treatments, planning to have a child, or have experienced infertility or multiple miscarriages, you could benefit from genetic testing. Many types of genetic testing, such as genetic carrier screening, can be done at any time. However, the best time for genetic testing is before you try to conceive or start the fertility process. 

Genetic testing options

We provide a full range of genetic testing options before getting pregnant or starting fertility treatments:

Genetic carrier screening: You may be a carrier of a genetic condition. As a carrier, you may not have symptoms or a family history of the disease, but you can pass it to your children. Genetic carrier screening determines if you have a higher risk of having a child with a genetic condition. We recommend genetic carrier screening for everyone before pregnancy or the start of fertility treatments.

Diagnostic testing: This type of testing confirms whether you have a suspected genetic condition. Your physician may recommend a diagnostic test if you have symptoms of a specific genetic condition, such as cystic fibrosis testing for men with infertility due to CAVD. It is available to infants through adults. 

Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT): Preimplantation genetic testing identifies genetic differences in embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF). PGT occurs before embryos are transferred to the uterus. This process helps your physicians select embryos with a very low risk for certain genetic disorder(s) or chromosome abnormalities. 

Prenatal genetic screening: Learn about testing options that are available during pregnancy.

What Can I Expect?

Your genetic counselor works with your entire care team, including physicians, nurse coordinators, laboratories and embryologists, to deliver a seamless care experience. Here’s what to expect during genetic counseling:

Pre-appointment preparation

Before your appointment, gather family health histories and any genetic test results for you, your family and your partner (if applicable). It is beneficial if your genetic counselor can evaluate previous genetic test results before your initial appointment. This helps us provide you with the most information during your visit.

First appointment

At your first appointment, your genetic counselor will: 

  • Discuss your concerns with you
  • Review your and, if applicable, your partner’s family histories
  • Provide information about genetic testing and genetic screening options
  • Explain what genetic tests and screening can and cannot detect
  • Help guide and support your decision whether to test for genetic conditions
  • Answer questions you may have

Genetic testing

Your genetic counselor coordinates care with your fertility team for genetic carrier screening, diagnostic testing and PGT during fertility treatments. If you choose to move forward with genetic testing of any type, we have a laboratory on-site for blood draws. You can provide your sample at your first visit or combine it with other blood work you may need. 

Results

Your genetic counselor reviews your test results with you via phone or in person, helping you understand what the results mean. If you test positive for a genetic condition or have a risk of passing a genetic condition onto your child, our team provides help and support, including a discussion of all available reproductive options. 

We can connect you to community or national services that offer ongoing support, advocacy and education. We can also communicate with your medical team, help coordinate fertility care and provide support during a stressful time. 

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University fertility and reproductive specialist at the Women & Infants Center, call 888.998.5497.