Genetic Counselling on the NHS During Pregnancy

As part of the growing genetics service available under the NHS, genetic counselling is provided by regional genetics services to support people through a difficult and often uncertain time.

Who provides genetic counselling under the NHS?

‘Genetic counselling’ is quite a broad term in the NHS, and refers to any kind of information or advice about genetic illnesses and related matters provided to you by an NHS professional with the relevant training and experience. The main providers of genetic counselling under the NHS are dedicated genetic counsellors, clinical geneticists, and specialist doctors like, for instance, cardiologists who specialise in the area which genetic disease affects.

Any one of these practitioners can discuss details of specific genetic diseases with you, and go into what the risks involved are, and the advantages of pursuing dedicated counselling. Sessions with a trained professional genetic counsellor will be geared towards preparing you for a test and its results.

What do I need for genetic counselling?

Genetic counselling on the NHS usually comes as part of a referral from a GP to your regional genetics service. Once you have been referred to the genetics service, you will probably meet with a clinical geneticist who might be able to arrange counselling if necessary. Beyond the relevant referral, all you need for genetic counselling is information about your family history as this is very important and relevant to any investigations into genetic illness. The hereditary nature of genetic disease means that knowing which family members have suffered from the disease can give your doctors important information on the specifics of the disease.

Genetic counselling and getting ready to start a family

If you are pursuing a genetic screen because you are concerned about passing an inherited disease on to your child, then genetic counselling can help support you through the decision making process that comes after receiving the results of a genetic test. A counsellor can help interpret the test results, thereby telling you the chances of passing on that disease, and giving you helpful, informed advice as to whether or not you should proceed with a pregnancy. Ultimately that decision is yours of course, but having a counsellor’s support and advice can be helpful.

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