What to Expect During Your Genetic Counseling Session

By CooperGenomics — July 14, 2020

5 min read

We have the opportunity to speak to a lot of patients seeking IVF and preimplantation genetic testing, or PGT, here at CooperGenomics. Individuals and couples seek out PGT for several reasons, from difficulties conceiving spontaneously, to wanting to avoid passing on a genetic disorder. If you are seeking preimplantation genetic testing at CooperGenomics, you will have the opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor who will guide you through the process. But not everyone knows what to expect during their first genetic counseling session, so here are a few things to keep in mind as your appointment time approaches:

The session will be over the phone and may take up to one hour.

It is a good idea to find a place where you will have the ability to speak openly and take in the information you are receiving. Some people like to use the flexibility of the format to schedule their appointment when they are driving to work or during their lunch break, but do not forget that you will be discussing personal matters like your medical and reproductive histories. If you don’t want the person standing in line with you at Subway to hear the details, find a quiet space away from other people. And while it might seem convenient to have the session while you are driving to work, that may make it difficult to focus on the information being provided (and you will definitely not be able to take notes!).

You will be asked a lot of questions about your family’s medical history.

There are a lot of medical conditions that run in families, but not everyone knows the risk some disorders pose. Genetic counselors are trained to evaluate patterns in a family’s history that may be suggestive of inherited disorders. Some findings may have implications for your health and the health of your future children. As you are preparing for your genetic counseling session, you should take a moment and review what you know about your family’s medical history. Has anyone had a cancer diagnosis before the age of fifty? Has anyone struggled to become pregnant or experienced recurrent miscarriages? Is there anyone in your family with a diagnosis of autism or other developmental delays? What about blindness or deafness? These are all things that may have a genetic component to them. So, give your aunt a call ahead of time and clarify the family history; it will help your genetic counselor provide you with an accurate assessment of your risks.

You will learn a lot about genetics and the process of preimplantation genetic testing.

Not sure what your chance is to have an embryo identified with a chromosome abnormality? Or what the risk is of passing on a particular genetic disorder? We have that information for you. Have you come to us because you have a personal or family history of a genetic disorder and you would like to test your embryos? We have that information too and you may be surprised to learn there is a bit more involved in the process than you thought. You will also learn what testing cannot tell you. Spoiler alert: testing will tell you only about the condition(s) your embryos are being tested for (i.e. the inherited disorder it is being screened for and/or if it has the appropriate number of chromosomes). Don’t worry if you don’t remember much from biology class; we will fill you in on what you need to know. Just come prepared to learn!

You will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Do not be afraid to ask anything that is on your mind! If there are any questions you have been wondering about, write them down, and ask during your session. We are here to help and to answer those questions about this process. Now is your time, so ask away!

So, to review, for your upcoming genetic counseling session:

  1. Be mindful of your location.
  2. Be prepared to discuss your and your partner’s family’s medical history.
  3. Be ready to learn.
  4. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

After your session is over, you will undoubtedly have more questions. Do not be afraid to reach out to your genetic counselor with follow-up questions or concerns at any time. We are here to support you on your family building journey!


About the Author:

Jennifer Rand is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She worked in genetics research for several years before turning to patient care and becoming a genetic counselor. She enjoys swing dancing, craft coffee, and reading up on the latest genetics research that’s hitting the field.