You may have your mother’s nose or your father’s smile. But could you also have inherited their high blood pressure, diabetes or genetic condition? If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, Thanksgiving provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about your family health history and how it may affect your pregnancy journey.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define family health history as a record of the diseases and health conditions in your family. If you have a family health history that includes a genetic condition, birth defect, blood disorder, newborn screening disorder or developmental disability, you might be more likely to have a baby with this condition. By knowing if your family has this history, you can work with your health care provider to address potential health problems early for your pregnancy.
If possible, collect as much information about your family health history before you conceive. Even if you don’t know all of the information, share what you do know with your provider. This information can help your doctor decide which screening tests you need and when.
The CDC offers tips for trying to track down your family health history.
“We encourage patients to do the best they can to learn about their medical backgrounds,” said Dr. Varvoutis. “The first step is talking to your parents or siblings. Often, a patient will text a family member while in my office so we can collect as much medical data as possible.”
Genetic Testing Can Help Find Answers
If a genetic condition runs in your family, you might be a carrier for that condition. You also might be a carrier for genetic conditions that are more common in your racial or ethnic group. Your doctor might ask if you want a carrier screening. He or she may also recommend genetic counseling if you’ve had:
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Two or more miscarriages
- A previous pregnancy or child with a genetic condition or birth defect
- A baby who died at less than 1 year of age
Results from these tests could impact your pregnancy planning, so getting tested before you get pregnant can give you time to think about what the results mean for you and consider all your options.
“It’s important to note that not all genetic tests are the same,” Dr. Varvoutis explained. “Some are more accurate than others, and there are risks and benefits to each type of test. While a screening test may tell you that you’re at a higher or lower risk for a condition, it does not mean you’ve been diagnosed with that condition or that your baby will develop it.”