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Q&A: Family Medical History and Pregnancy

Q. How does family health history affect a pregnancy?

A. Some health problems are more likely to occur in certain families, racial groups, or ethnic groups. Certain diseases are linked to specific genes. Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis are three such examples. In addition, your baby's risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, seizure disorder, or mental retardation may be higher if someone in your family has had them.

In order to assess your baby's risk of developing or inheriting diseases, your doctor will ask you about your family's health history. The more complete you can be in giving specific details, the better; find out as much health information as possible from relatives, both on your side and your partner's. If necessary, your doctor may recommend that you see a genetic counselor for further discussion and, possibly, genetic testing.

Your doctor will also ask you about your own health and sexual history, as well as your partner's. It's important to tell your doctor everything, even if it's embarrassing. If you've had previous pregnancies, abortions, or sexually transmitted diseases, or if you've used street drugs, or if your partner uses drugs or has a sexually transmitted disease, your doctor needs to know. Your health and sexual history may affect your pregnancy, so be completely honest. Rest assured, there is nothing you can tell your doctor that he or she hasn't heard many times before.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.