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Genetic Counseling: Questions & Answers

What is genetics?
Genetics is the study of heredity-how we get various characteristics from our parents.

What are genes?
Genes are complex chemical structures. They carry the blueprint or design of the characteristics we get from our parents.

What are chromosomes?
Chromosomes are thread-like structures which carry genes. Every human cell has 46 chromosomes.

What is genetics counseling and how can it help me?
Genetics counseling helps you and your family understand genetic information and the results of genetic testing. A doctor will explain genetic disorders or potential disorders and the effect they can have on you and your children. The physician will answer any questions you may have. This information can help you plan for your future and the future of your children.

If I decide I want genetics counseling, what do I do?
You can go to any local health department to request genetics counseling. A public health nurse will fill out a referral form and mail it for you. You will then receive an appointment date and time in the mail.

What happens the first time I visit the genetics clinic?
During your first visit, a staff member will interview you to get a complete family history. A physician will determine whether you need any genetic testing.

Does genetic testing hurt?
Genetic testing usually involves just giving a little blood-about a teaspoon. If the doctor orders amniocentesis, a local numbing substance prevents any discomfort.

What is amniocentesis?
Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test for pregnant women. The physician uses a special needle to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid from a pregnant woman's womb. Tests on this fluid give you and the doctor important information about your baby before birth. For example, amniocentesis can tell you if your baby is a boy or a girl.

Will amniocentesis hurt my baby?
No. Before amniocentesis, the physician takes ultrasound pictures of your baby. These pictures tell the doctor where your baby is positioned so getting a sample of amniotic fluid will not hurt your baby.

What are ultrasound pictures?
The doctor uses sound waves to take pictures of your baby in your womb. These pictures are videotaped so the doctor can look at them very slowly. This process will not hurt you or your baby.

Should I tell my family about my test results?
You certainly should tell all family members the results of genetic testing. Other family members may need to have similar testing-especially if a pregnancy is planned or has already occurred. Some family members may decide not to have any more children to prevent the possibility of a genetic problem. Also, a couple planning to marry may want to be tested if either knows he or she has some genetic problem.

Need More Answers?
If you have any other questions, write them down and ask them when you come to the clinic.

This page last reviewed on Aug 15, 2014 report errors on this page e-mail email this page print print 
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