Posted on: 6 November 2017
Forty years ago, the average age of an Australian woman giving birth was 25, but these days it is now over 30. However, once a woman reaches 35, they are then classed as a higher-risk pregnancy than those under 35. Having just discovered you are pregnant with your first child at 39, you are already anxious about the possibility of your child suffering a genetic deformity due to your age. Genetic counselling is one option you will be offered as your pregnancy progresses, so now is the time to become better informed about what genetic counselling is.
What is genetic counselling?
Genetic counselling covers you seeing a doctor who is different to your primary obstetric carer and who specialises in conditions related to high-risk pregnancy. These conditions include Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis and Fragile X syndrome.
What is discussed at genetic counselling?
First of all, the session will discuss the different types of testing available to determine whether your child is at risk of being born with a syndrome or condition. For example, Down syndrome can be detected during the second trimester by having a test done called amniocentesis. Amniocentesis involves removing amniotic fluid from around your child, and this fluid is then tested in a lab.
After outlining the types of tests available, the counselling also gives you options about your pregnancy in the event genetic testing shows that your unborn child is likely to be born with one of these conditions.
Can you refuse genetic counselling?
Genetic counselling is not compulsory, and neither are the genetic tests which can forewarn you that your child will be born with a syndrome. However, in certain situations, it does not hurt to at least listen to what the genetic counsellor has to say.
For example, if you have already had two prenatal scans and there is evidence in those scans that something is amiss, then genetic counselling gives peace of mind in determining more clearly what type of syndrome is causing the skew results. Alternatively, if you have been exposed to a disease or chemicals during your pregnancy, testing gives reassurances about whether your child is developing as they should.
At the end of the day, the decision whether to proceed with genetic counselling and subsequent testing rests solely with you, but if your doctor does recommend these during your antenatal care, you now are better informed about whether to schedule them for yourself or not.Share