About This Service
Prenatal and Preconceptional Genetic Counseling services are available as a part of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which is offered through Women’s Health, a clinical partnership between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin.
Certified prenatal genetic counselors work closely with maternal-fetal medicine specialists to evaluate risks for genetic conditions in current or future pregnancies, discuss prenatal genetic testing options and results, and develop care plans specific to the patient’s needs.
The Prenatal and Preconceptional Genetic Counseling care team is comprised of nationally recognized clinical genetic counselors. We provide guidance and support so that you can make an informed decision regarding your health and pregnancies.
Pregnant and preconceptional patients and couples can be seen for the following:
- Abnormal prenatal ultrasound showing fetal structural anomaly
- Abnormal genetic screening test result, such as cell-free DNA/NIPT (noninvasive prenatal testing) screening
- Family history (including parents of pregnancy) of intellectual disability, birth defect, or genetic condition
- Parents of pregnancy are known carriers of a genetic condition
- Known potentially harmful exposure during pregnancy
- Previous recurrent pregnancy loss (at least two unexplained miscarriages, stillbirth, or fetal or neonatal loss with or without fetal structural anomalies)
- Patient or couple wishes to discuss genetic risks to pregnancy and testing options in an in-depth manner
- Parents of pregnancy are blood-related to each other
Our genetic counselors discuss the benefits and limitations of genetic screening and diagnosis. Deciding whether to undergo genetic testing is a personal choice.
If you choose to pursue genetic screening, your DNA (and sometimes your baby’s DNA) can be collected through a maternal blood sample, before or during a pregnancy. Once your results are available, our genetic counselors discuss results directly with you and develop a care plan specific to your and your baby’s needs. If you find out future pregnancies are at higher risk for genetic conditions, you may decide on alternate reproductive options. If you decide not to pursue genetic screening, a care plan can still be developed based on your family and personal health history.
Sometimes, family or personal health history, abnormal blood screening results, or abnormal ultrasound findings suggest an increased risk for genetic syndromes or birth defects in a specific pregnancy. In that case, you may be offered prenatal diagnosis to evaluate the pregnancy for a specific genetic syndrome or group of syndromes. Prenatal diagnosis for genetic conditions can provide valuable information to families and their providers. Identifying genetic conditions during pregnancy may allow you to make an informed decision about your pregnancy, and it also provides time to prepare for having a child with a particular condition and to organize the care your child may need. We work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you and your baby may need, such as Maternal-Fetal Medicine (high-risk obstetric care) and Comprehensive Fetal Care services. A thoughtful discussion about your family’s needs and goals are provided in a supportive environment.
Patients are cared for by a dedicated multidisciplinary care team, meaning you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Our clinical genetic counselors have extensive experience in the complex topic of genetics and work alongside a team of women’s health experts, including maternal-fetal medicine specialists, obstetrician-gynecologists, fetal specialists, nurses, sonographers, advanced practice providers, dietitians, social workers, and more, providing unparalleled care for patients and their families every step of the way. We also collaborate closely with referring physicians and other partners in the community.
We also collaborate with our colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin and the Dell Medical School to stay informed of the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to successfully connect you with the recommended services.
For more information about Prenatal and Preconceptional Genetic Counseling services, please call 1-512-324-7256.
Frequently Asked Questions
Prenatal genetic testing encompasses both prenatal genetic screening and prenatal genetic diagnosis. Prenatal genetic screening tests identify “increased risks” for genetic conditions in a pregnancy. Prenatal genetic diagnosis can often identify extra or missing DNA or pathogenic variants (or mutations) in specific genes in order to diagnosis the baby with a genetic condition. Genetic counseling helps patients understand the benefits, limitations, and risks associated with undergoing genetic testing as well as how genetic testing affects healthcare management, such as the options available to patients for early detection and treatment.
Prenatal genetic screening can assist with understanding the risk of your baby acquiring certain genetic conditions. Prenatal genetic diagnosis offers the possibility of confirming a diagnosis, which can inform prenatal and postnatal care. If prenatal diagnostic testing is performed using CVS or amniocentesis and identifies a genetic condition in the baby, we will work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you may need, such as Maternal-Fetal Medicine (high-risk obstetrical care) and Comprehensive Fetal Care services.
Prenatal genetic counseling can help you understanding your baby’s risk for developing a birth defect or genetic condition, decide whether screening or diagnostic testing is right for you, and provide information and support once results become available.
Individuals who are at an increased risk for developing fetal anomalies or birth defects should consider genetic counseling to discuss whether genetic testing is right for them.
Please note: Some genetic conditions (caused by extra or missing DNA or an abnormal variant in the DNA) are not familial (known to be present in other family members).
Prenatal genetic screening can reveal whether a pregnancy is at high or low risk for specific genetic conditions. Some screening tests are quite accurate, but they cannot make a diagnosis.
Diagnostic testing can diagnose some specific genetic conditions. However, there is no test that diagnoses or rules out “all genetic conditions."
We offer both genetic screening and diagnostic testing to evaluate for genetic conditions.
Genetic Screening: Non-invasive tests that are performed without risk to the pregnancy. This usually consists of a combination of blood work and an ultrasound. A diagnostic test is also required prenatally or postnatally to confirm diagnosis.
Examples of genetic screening include:
- Cell-free DNA aneuploidy screen (also call non-invasive prenatal test, or NIPT): Screens for extra or missing chromosomes in the baby (specifically trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), trisomy 13, and trisomy 18).
- Carrier screen: Evaluates parental genes for variants that can increase risk of a specific genetic condition being passed to their offspring. Best performed preconceptionally but often performed during pregnancy.
Diagnostic testing: Invasive test that provides a definitive diagnosis. These tests are associated with a small (0.1-0.2%) risk of miscarriage. While these tests are available to anybody who desires them, they are typically recommended when the results of a screening test or ultrasound are abnormal.
Examples of genetic screening include:
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): Obtains a sample of cells from the placenta for genetic diagnosis. Best performed at 12-13 weeks of gestation.
- Amniocentesis: Obtains a sample of amniotic fluid from around the baby for genetic diagnosis. Best performed before or at 16 weeks of gestation.
If you choose to pursue prenatal genetic screening, your DNA (and sometimes your baby’s DNA) can be collected through a maternal blood sample before or during a pregnancy. Once your results are available, our genetic counselors discuss your results directly with you and develop a care plan specific to your and your baby’s needs. If prenatal diagnostic testing is performed using CVS or amniocentesis and identifies a genetic condition in the baby, we will work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you may need, such as Maternal-Fetal Medicine (high-risk obstetrical care) and Comprehensive Fetal Care services.
Most insurance providers, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover at least some of the cost of genetic screening and diagnosis. Every insurance plan is different. Discussion about potential costs of testing are part of the genetic counseling session.
About the Partnership Between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin
The collaboration between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School, brings together medical professionals, medical school learners, and researchers, who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming healthcare delivery and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows us to provide you with a team of highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic, and technological developments.