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What are genetic counselors?

Genetic counselors are master's degree-level trained health care providers with expertise in genetics and short-term counseling.  The UW Prenatal Genetics group of genetic counselors focus on reproductive health care, serving in a variety of locations and in combination with maternal-fetal medicine physicians and other specialists to meet the needs of Washingtonians and the WWAMI region.

Why do people meet with genetic counselors?

Some of the more common reasons we meet with people include:

  • Increased parental age
  • Prenatal ultrasound results
  • Ordering of prenatal genetic tests
  • Interpretation of normal and abnormal genetic tests
  • Family history concerns, such as: a physical birth difference, a known or suspected genetic condition, a childhood disorder with a possible hereditary contribution
  • Parental genetic condition or chromosome disorder
  • Birth defect risk assessment from medications or adverse exposures
  • Recurrent pregnancy losses
  • Adoption when there is limited family history data
  • General risk-assessment information


When do people meet with genetic counselors?

We meet with people at many points in their reproductive journeys including before, during, and after pregnancy.  We also work closely with fertility specialists, meeting with their patients for evaluation for reasons for reproductive losses, reasons for infertility, and to review genetic testing of embryos as part of in vitro fertilization treatment.  


What are the goals of genetic counseling visits?

The genetic counseling interaction focuses on the individual patient to identify their needs and concerns in order to provide information and options for care in a supportive environment.  There are several goals of a reproductive genetic counseling visits.  We hope to increase patient empowerment for health care decision making related to themselves and their offspring.  We also want to assist people in adapting to what may be an unexpected set of circumstances.  A patient or couple may meet with a genetic counselor once or several times.  


What if I want to learn more?

For more information about genetic counseling, please visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors at