Posts Tagged ‘family history’

Today is World Down Syndrome Day

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition caused by extra genetic material. Typically, our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. In the case of Down syndrome, a person has an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material changes how the body and brain develop. People with Down syndrome have a few common physical traits, but each individual is unique and can lead a healthy active life.

We don’t know for sure why Down syndrome happens. Even though it’s a genetic condition, the majority of the cases are not passed on from the parents or family to the baby. Most cases happen because in the early stages of the baby’s development, there is a problem when the cells are dividing. However, there are some factors that may increase the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome, such as:

  • Mother’s age. The risk of Down syndrome increases with the mom’s age. Even though the risk is greater as your age increases, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women age 35 or less. This is because younger women have more babies than older women.
  • Having had a baby with Down syndrome. Up to age 40, for each pregnancy your chances of having another baby with Down syndrome is about 1 in 100 (1 percent). After age 40, the risk is based on your age. Talk to a genetic counselor to understand your risk of having another baby with Down syndrome.
  • Being a carrier of a genetic translocation. Both, men and women, can pass a genetic translocation to their baby. These cases are not very common. If you had a baby with Down syndrome before or if you or your partner have a family history of Down syndrome, it’s best to talk to a genetic counselor.

During pregnancy your health care provider will offer screening tests to see if your baby is more likely to have Down syndrome. These tests are offered to all pregnant women as part of regular prenatal care. However, a screening test won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome. It only tells you if there is a higher risk. To know for sure you will need a diagnostic test.

How do you know if your baby has Down syndrome?

If you get an abnormal screening test result, your provider will recommend a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test will confirm if a baby has Down syndrome. There are few diagnostic tests:

  • Amniocentesis (also called amnio). This test checks the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in the uterus to check for Down syndrome. You can get an amnio at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS). This test checks the tissue from the placenta to see if a baby has Down syndrome. You can get a CVS at 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Cordocentesis (also called percutaneous umbilical cord sampling or PUBS). For this test your provider inserts a thin needle into an umbilical cord vein to take a small sample of your baby’s blood to check for chromosome defects. You can get this test between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a much greater risk of miscarriage with cordocentesis than with an amnio or a CVS. So you only get this test if other tests are unclear and your provider can’t confirm if your baby has Down syndrome any other way.

Down syndrome is also identified at birth by physical traits like: almond-shaped eyes that slant up, low muscle tone, a single line across the center of the palm of the hand, and a flattened face. But these traits won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome, a chromosomal test call karyotype is needed to confirm this diagnosis.

Don’t forget your family health history

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

generations-at-the-tableAs everyone is preparing for holiday travels or out-of-town visits from relatives, it is a good time to remember that family gatherings give you the perfect opportunity to discuss your family health history.  Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day.

A family health history is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. A useful family health history shows three generations of your biological relatives, the age at diagnosis of any specific diseases, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. The family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease in individuals and their close relatives.

If you have already discussed your family health history, now is a great time to update it.  And if it is not something you have had a chance to do, holidays are the perfect opportunity, when everyone is gathered together.  You can read more about the importance of family health history in some of our previous blog posts.  And you can go to our website to find our helpful family health history forms.  Learning about your family’s health history may help to ensure that your family can celebrate more holidays together in the future.

Diabetes Alert Day

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, is Diabetes Alert Day. It is designed to teach the public about the seriousness of diabetes, particularly when the disease is left undiagnosed or untreated.

Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy significantly increases a woman’s future chances of developing diabetes. About half will develop diabetes over the next 10 years. And the mom isn’t the only one at risk – her child of that pregnancy may be at an increased risk for developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Find out if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes by taking the Diabetes Risk Test and talking to your family about your family history of diabetes. If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputation, and even death.

For more information and free resources, visit the NDEP Web site at YourDiabetesInfo.org.

We are proud to be partners in the Show Your Love national campaign designed to improve the health of women and babies by promoting preconception health and healthcare.

All in the family

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

generationsSara is a genetic counselor who works in the Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center at  the March of Dimes.  This is the first of many posts she will be writing for NMN.

My husband and I are always amazed at how much my son is like my father.  Although they do not look alike, they have the same exact personality.  In the looks department though, my son is a carbon copy of my husband’s family.  But what else has he inherited from us?  Heart disease, diabetes, cancer?  For many of these things, there is no way to know.  But one thing that we have done is to talk to our family members and figure out, as best we can, what our family health history looks like.  We did this before we even decided to have children.  We wanted to know if there was any history of miscarriages, birth defects, pregnancy complications, premature births, or diseases in our family.   This allowed us to make informed choices regarding any testing that may be offered and to make sure my health care provider was aware of any family risk factors.

We also made sure we knew our ethnic background.  People from certain ethnic backgrounds have an increased risk to pass on certain genetic diseases to their children.  For instance, Tay Sachs disease is more common in people of Eastern European Jewish or French Canadian heritage. Cystic fibrosis is more common in individuals of Northern European Caucasian descent.  And sickle cell disease is found more frequently in individuals of African-American or Hispanic descent.

With summer approaching you may be planning a trip to visit family members, or traveling to a family reunion.  While everyone is together, it is a great time to talk about your family’s health history.  You can use our family health history questionnaire to learn what information is important.  At first, you may feel a little uncomfortable.  But if you explain that this will help your whole family in the future, I bet most people will be happy to open up and give you some great information.  And then remember to keep updating it.  A family medical history, just like a family, is dynamic and always changing.  And while you are learning about your family’s health history, you may be surprised what other interesting facts and stories will be shared.  It is a great opportunity to get to know your family on an entirely different level.

9 questions to ask your provider before you get pregnant

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There are things you can do, before you get pregnant, to help give your baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth. See your health care provider before pregnancy and ask about the following topics.

What do I need to know about…

1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems?
2. Medicines or home remedies?
3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid in it each day?
4. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs?
6. Unsafe chemicals or other things I should stay away from at home or at work?
7. Taking care of myself and lowering my stress?
8. How long to wait between pregnancies?
9. My family history, including premature birth?

ABC’s of a healthy pregnancy, H-Q

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Continuing our post on the ABC’s of a healthy pregnancy A-G (July 10), here are guidelines H-Q to help increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

H:  History can teach us a lot! Understanding your family history can make an important difference in your life and the lives of your children.

I:  Iron is a mineral that helps create red blood cells, which are needed to carry oxygen to your baby. Be sure to get enough iron in your diet to prevent getting anemia.

J:  Join a childbirth education class to help you understand what to expect during labor and birth.

K:  Keep you and your baby safe during a disaster by planning ahead of time. Prepare for a disaster by making a list of medications you’re taking and having a handy contact sheet with your health provider’s information.

L:  Lots of back pain? Backache is one of the most common problems for pregnant women. Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time. Wear comfortable shoes and consider a pregnancy massage to ease some of your pain.

M:  Medical conditions, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, should be carefully monitored by you and your health provider. Also, talk to your provider about any medications that may need to be adjusted during pregnancy.

N:  Nausea is very common during pregnancy and certain foods can trigger the feeling. Try substituting other nutritious options for the foods that make you feel ill. Eat 5-6 small meals a day, rather than three large ones.

O:  Oh, baby! Get ready to care for your baby before you bring her home from the hospital. Choose a health provider for her and make sure your home environment is all set and safe for your new baby.

P:  Prenatal care is essential for having a healthy baby, so be sure to make all of your visits. During these appointments, prenatal tests will be given to help your provider know how you and your baby are doing.

Q:  Quit bad habits such as smoking and drinking. Smoking can cause your baby to grow more slowly and gain less weight in the womb. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause your baby to be born with both physical and mental birth defects.

Visit us next Thursday for the final part of our series, the ABC’s of a healthy pregnancy R-Z.

Low fat milk for some babies

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Low fat milk may be appropriate for some children between 12 months and 2 years of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Examples:

  • * Babies who are overweight or obese
  • * Babies with a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease

Before giving your child any low fat milk products, talk to your child’s health care provider.

To learn about your family medical history, go to the March of Dimes Web site.