How well do you know your family’s medical history? If you’re not sure about the history of diseases and medical conditions that run in your family, it might be time to consider genetic counseling and testing.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genetic counseling provides information on how genetic conditions may affect your family. There are many reasons to consider genetic counseling, but here are three of the main reasons you should.

1. Planning for Pregnancy. The CDC advises genetic counseling during pregnancy planning to help identify conditions that might be passed on to children or affect a pregnancy. History of infertility, miscarriages and stillbirth is taken into account, as well as difficulties with any previous pregnancies. Genetic counseling in this instance helps improve the odds of positive health outcomes for future children and assists in evaluating personal fertility of the pregnant parent.

2. Managing Child Care. Genetic counseling is important if your children begin to exhibit symptoms of hereditary conditions. However, it may also be effective in preventive treatment for genetic disorders. Counseling can help you plan for necessary future medical treatments and allow you to take better care of your children if they are affected by a genetic condition. 

3. Nurturing Personal Health. Genetic counseling can also be an important tool for managing personal health. It can help determine if you should be concerned about conditions that your family has a history of struggling with, or it can help identify genetic disorders that you may want to be tested for based on your family’s medical history. This may include conditions like hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, familial hypercholesterolemia, muscular dystrophy and inherited movement and blood disorders.

  

Genetic testing is how doctors find variants in DNA that inform them of different conditions you might have or be at risk of having. The CDC advises genetic testing as a follow-up for genetic counseling, but here are three reasons to consider genetic testing in general.

1. Determining At-Risk Conditions. Genetic testing plays an important role in helping determine which health conditions you’re at risk of. If your family has a history of heart disease, cancer or any other major diseases or disorders, genetic testing can help reveal if you’re at risk for those same conditions.

2. Diagnosing Genetic Conditions. If you or a loved one is displaying symptoms of a disease or disorder, genetic testing may be able to help identify its origin. The test can also be used to help diagnose the condition that’s causing the symptoms, allowing for more effective treatment.

3. Planning for Future Medical Treatment. As with genetic counseling, genetic testing can help you plan for prenatal and natal care. It can also help guide your plans for more serious medical treatments, especially involving cancer care or heart health. 

 

Genetic counseling and genetic testing can help reveal issues within your family’s medical history that you may not have known existed. By choosing either or both of these options, you’re choosing to be proactive about protecting your health and your family’s health. You can learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing on the CDC’s website.