Genes are pieces of DNA in a chromosome. They contain information that cells in the body need to function properly. They also determine a person’s physical features.
Your baby will inherit 2 copies of each gene: one from you, and one from your partner. These genes pass characteristics on to your baby. If there is a problem, it could cause:
- Single gene disorders that run in families, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia
- Chromosomal disorders such as Trisomy 18, Turner syndrome, and Down syndrome, which are caused when all or parts of a chromosome are deleted, duplicated, or structurally rearranged, and are usually not passed from one generation to the next
Genetic disorders can also lead to pregnancy loss.
Determining your genetic risk
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your and your partner's family health histories before you begin trying to conceive. If your doctor determines that risk factors are present, you may be referred to a genetic professional for further consultation and testing.
Genetic risk factors that could affect a future pregnancy include:
- Genetic conditions, birth defects, chromosomal disorders, or cancers that run in the family
- Loss of two or more pregnancies
- History of stillbirth or loss of a baby
- Having a child with a known inherited disorder, birth defect, or intellectual disability
- Being pregnant or planning to become pregnant at 35 years or older
- Test results that suggest the presence of a genetic condition
- Certain ethnic backgrounds
If counseling is recommended, you and your partner will meet with a genetic professional to discuss your risks. You may choose to have genetic testing, which can diagnose, confirm, or rule out a genetic condition and estimate the chances of your baby having a genetic disorder. Your doctor can help you decide if genetic testing is the right choice for you.
Between 20,000 and 25,000 genes are in the human body
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