Laurie Tams, the genetic counselor at Virginia Women’s Center, works with mothers and couples to explain the array of prenatal testing options available and helps to interpret the test results. She works closely with the maternal-fetal medicine specialists and obstetricians.
If you and your partner are considering pregnancy or are newly pregnant, you might be amazed and/or overwhelmed with the number of prenatal testing options available. There are three different types of genetic testing that are offered during pregnancy.
- Carrier testing of both parents will detect if either parent is a carrier of a certain genetic defect. A carrier test can be done before, during or after pregnancy and is performed by obtaining a blood sample which is then studied in a lab to detect a defective gene for a certain inherited disorder.
- Screening tests are available to detect some birth defects during pregnancy. However, a screening test only shows if there is an increased risk that a defect will occur.
- If a screening test or other factors raise concerns, diagnostic tests often can show whether certain birth defects are present.
For more detailed information on some of the carrier and screening tests available, check out the Focus on Health videos that are available on the Virginia Women’s Health website.
Reasons for Referral to a Genetic Counselor
Your obstetrician may refer you to Laurie Tams or another genetic counselor for one or more of the following reasons:
- You are planning to start a family and either you, your partner or a close relative has an inherited illness.
- You already have one child with a severe birth defect.
- You have had two or more miscarriages.
- You have delivered a stillborn child with physical signs of a genetic illness.
- You are pregnant and over age 34.
Genetic testing offers greater ability to diagnose and address birth defects during pregnancy. However, whether you want to be tested to see if your baby is at increased risk for birth defects or genetic disorders is a personal choice.
Some couples choose not to be tested for birth defects. Others find that testing and counseling can help them better plan for the future. Working with a genetic counselor can be reassuring and informative, especially if you or your partner has a known risk factor.
It’s important to keep in mind that the genetics field is expanding exponentially, so new developments—often complex—can come to light every day.
For more information, contact the Virginia Women’s Center.
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