Knowing Your Family History
Are you trying to get pregnant, or thinking about planning for a new addition to your family in the not-so-distant future? Aside from researching fertility methods, one other very important factor you should be considering is your own family history—and to some extent, your spouse’s as well. Though not all things pregnancy-related are genetic in nature (some are left to pure chance, and others to your lifestyle and personal habits), many of them are. Here are some important considerations regarding heredity that you should know about before deciding to begin the journey towards welcoming a new baby into the world:
- The Pregnancy
Before deciding to become pregnant, it may be smart to talk to your mother, and possibly even grandmother, about their own pregnancies. Certain aspects of pregnancy, such as how easy (or difficult) it was to conceive; pregnancy side effects, such as morning sickness and heartburn; as well as possible complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, may run in the family line. Although these factors shouldn’t necessarily scare you away from becoming pregnant, it can be helpful to know the risks and possibilities beforehand, so that you can prepare yourself physically and mentally.
Naturally-occurring, multiple births also tend to be genetic (though sometimes, they’re a complete surprise), so ask your relatives about any twins or triplets in your family’s history. See if you can spot a trend to help predict whether or not you might be the lucky, new mom of not one, but two, or even three bundles of joy!
- Your Baby
Almost everything about your future baby—the way he looks, his overall health, and even his blossoming personality—will depend, to a large extent, on the genes you and your spouse pass down to him (the same ones you both got from your own parents, who got them from your grandparents, and so on). Therefore, being knowledgeable about the traits (and risk factors) that run in your and your spouse’s family can help you get to know your little one even before he arrives. This information can also help you prepare for any genetic defects, diseases, or other health conditions your baby may be susceptible to. Find out if there are any incidences of chromosomal disorders, such as down syndrome, or gene disorders like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia in your or your spouse’s family medical history. If there are, talk to your doctor about what this may mean for your pregnancy and your newborn.
If you’re concerned about the effects your genes and family history may have on the health of your baby, then it may be wise to speak to a genetic counselor, or consider undergoing genetic testing to acquire more information about any potential risks to you or your future baby. With the right amount of information, an ounce of prevention, and a little bit of faith as well, you may just be on your way to a happy, healthy pregnancy, not to mention a fulfilling and satisfying relationship with your newborn—however he or she turns out!