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What are the Chances of Having a Child with a Genetic Disorder?
There are a number of different types of genetic disorders, and the risk of your child being born with a genetic condition is dependent on a number of things. If you fall into the demographic of people at a high risk of having a child with a genetic disorder, it’s important to know what resources are available to you before, during, and after pregnancy.
During prenatal visits with your doctor, he/she will likely assess your personal risk of having a child with a genetic disorder or a birth defect. If your child’s risk is higher-than-average, your doctor may recommend prenatal genetic testing. Prenatal genetic testing is a screening, done via a blood test, that can help your doctor determine the risk of your child developing a genetic condition. Prenatal genetic testing will also allow parents-to-be to have more insight on the health of their child during pregnancy.
In order to help you understand the risks associated with genetic conditions, we’ll discuss the factors that can contribute to various genetic conditions below.
Some genetic conditions occur randomly when an error in cell division in either the egg or sperm cells takes place. Examples of these types of disorders include:
Trisomy disorders, like Down syndrome
Physical deformities, like cleft palate
Neural tube defects that affect the structure of the spine and brain, like spina bifida
The risk that these disorders will develop in a child depends on numerous risk factors, like:
Advanced maternal age of 35 years or older at the time of birth
Exposure to toxic chemicals while pregnant
Having certain infections while pregnant, like HIV
Poorly managed chronic conditions while pregnant, like diabetes
Substance use, including alcohol, tobacco, and drugs during pregnancy
Vitamin and mineral deficiency while pregnant
Certain genes with a specific mutation can be inherited by one or both parents, and may cause a genetic disorder to develop. If you or your partner have been diagnosed with a genetic disorder, have previously given birth to a child with a genetic disorder, or have a close relative who has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder, there is a risk that your child may also inherit this disease.
Examples of inherited genetic disorders include:
Metabolic disorders, like Tay-Sachs disease
Degenerative disorders, like muscular dystrophy
Disorders of the nervous system, like fragile X syndrome
Recessive disorders develop when two copies of a mutated gene are inherited.
Dominant disorders develop when only one copy of a mutated gene is inherited.
Do You Think You Are at Risk of Having a Child With a Genetic Disorder?
If you believe that you could have a child with a genetic disorder and would like to learn more about the specific risk to your pregnancy, make an appointment with a genetic counselor.