Posts Tagged ‘genetics’

Pass the turkey, gravy, and the family health history form

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

thanksgiving-turkey21Thanksgiving, or any other family gathering, is a great time to share good times, delicious food, and family memories. It is also a great time to learn about your family health history.

Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. It can help you learn about the health of your baby even before he’s born! Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

By understanding the health issues that run in your family, you can take positive steps for a healthier future. Since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving as National Family History Day.  Here are a couple of ways you can easily gather your FHH:

So, somewhere between dinner and dessert, start a conversation with your relatives, and find out about your family health history.  The info you learn may make a huge difference in all of your lives, and in your baby’s life!

 

It’s Prematurity Awareness Month – Come chat with us!

Monday, October 31st, 2016

parents in the NICU

We have several Twitter chats scheduled in November, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.

Please join us:

Wednesday, November 2 at 1pm ET with neonatologist Dr. Suresh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Use #preemiechat

Topic:  Prematurity – causes, complications, and coping in the NICU

 

Wednesday, November 9 at 2pm ET with Mom’s Rising. Use #WellnessWed

Topic: Can your preconception health reduce your chances of giving birth early?

 

Tuesday, November 15th at 2pm ET with Genetic Alliance and Baby’s First Test. Use #preemiechat

Topic: Is prematurity caused by genetics? Can it run in families?

 

We hope to see you on Twitter!

For questions or more information about these chats, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

birth announcement

If my first baby has a congenital heart defect, what are the chances my second baby will have one, too?

Friday, September 30th, 2016

pregnant mom with childThis is a question we received through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from a mom who is pregnant with her second baby. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects and if you already have a child with a CHD, you may wonder if your second child will have the same defect. The answer, though, is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

We don’t know the cause of most congenital heart defects. For some babies, their heart defects were caused by changes in their chromosomes or genes (which are passed from parents to children). Researchers have found about 40 gene changes (also called mutations) that cause heart defects. About 30 in 100 babies (30 percent) with a heart defect also have a chromosomal condition or a genetic condition. So if you, your partner or one of your other children has a congenital heart defect, your baby may be more likely to have one, too.

But CHDs are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things in your environment, your diet, any medications you may be taking, and health conditions you may have. Conditions like diabetes, lupus, rubella and even obesity can play a role in causing CHDs.

So what is your risk?

The chance of having another child with a CHD depends on many factors. It is best to meet with your health care provider and a genetic counselor who can better assess your risk. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Still have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Baby’s genes may play a role in some premature births

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

MOD scienceSome babies seem to have a genetic predisposition to a higher risk of being born too soon. Changes in the baby’s DNA – not the mother’s – may be what triggers some early births.

In an exciting new study, researchers analyzed the number of copies of certain genes in the blood or saliva from hundreds of babies and their mothers. A gene is a part of your body’s cells that stores instructions for the way your body grows and works. What the scientists found may be somewhat surprising.  There was no link between the number of copies of the mother’s genes and the chances of a preterm baby. However, there was a two- to eleven-fold increase in premature births before 34 weeks of pregnancy when any of four genes were duplicated or seven genes were deleted in the babies born preterm, when compared to babies born full-term.

The researchers think that the differences in the number of copies of the genes may not be causing a preterm birth, but they may put a baby at a higher risk of infection or reacting to other harmful environmental factors that may trigger early labor and delivery.

“These findings may help explain what triggers early labor in some women even when they’ve done everything right during pregnancy and there’s no obvious cause for an early birth,” explained March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer Edward R. B. McCabe, MD, MPH. “The hope is that this finding may one day lead to a screening test to help identify which babies are at a higher risk of an early birth.”

Stay tuned for upcoming details. We will blog again when we have more information.

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.

Supreme Court decision related to gene patenting

Monday, June 17th, 2013

double-helix“The March of Dimes is delighted with [the] unanimous Supreme Court decision in the case Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, finding that the mere identification of a gene or mutation is insufficient to qualify for a patent,” stated Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes.

“This decision will allow research to proceed unimpeded on some of the most crucial and vexing questions in medicine, such as the cause of preterm birth, which affects one in every 9 babies born in our nation. Genetic predisposition almost certainly plays a key role in some cases of preterm birth; as we learn more and identify genes potentially implicated in this process, we can be confident that research will advance without being hampered by patent infringement claims.

“This decision is a victory for patients and for research. Having signed onto one of the key amicus curiae briefs in this case, the March of Dimes commends the Justices for producing a sensible, thoughtful decision. This decision sets the groundwork for a system of granting patents for genuine innovation and invention in genetics while protecting the ability of research on genes to advance.”

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dr. Fisk GreenToday’s guest post is written by Ridgely Fisk Green, PhD, MMSc. Dr. Fisk Green is Carter Consulting contractor at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Fisk Green works on improving children’s health through better use of family health history information.

Today, when you end up sitting next to Aunt Irma who likes to talk about everyone’s health problems, don’t tune her out! Take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and get together with family. You share more than just special occasions with your family—you share genes, behaviors, culture, and environment. Family health history accounts for all of these. Your mother’s genes may have contributed to her type 2 diabetes and you may share some of those genes, but the fact that she never exercises and eats fast food every day also influences her health, and you might share some of those habits, as well.

Family health history information can also be important for keeping your child healthy. Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disorder. It can show whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic disorders first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.

Family health history is also very important if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. Remember to collect family health history information from the baby’s father, too. Family health history can tell if you have a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your family health history or the father’s family health history.

Tips for Collecting Family Health History for Your Child

•Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. For genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, include more distant relatives. Include conditions each relative has or had and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
•Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family health histories, called “My Family Health Portrait.”
•Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, share family health history information with your doctor.
•Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor.
•The best way to learn about your family health history is to ask questions. Talk at family gatherings and record your family’s health information—it could make a difference in your child’s life.

Click on this link to learn about family health history from the CDC.

Your family health history

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks with a woman about gathering and learning about family health history information to help her have a healthy baby.

Family history awareness

Monday, December 6th, 2010

generations-at-the-tableOver the holidays, most of us try to get together with family members for fun and feasting. While you’re gathered to share a meal, you’ll be in a perfect situation to share your family health history, too. For those of us who are young and hoping to start a family some day, it’s important to know if anyone has had heart disease or diabetes, hearing loss or a serious vision problem, a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder.  Find out what’s “all in the family.”   I was surprised to learn that my grandmother had two brothers who died young from the same heart condition. Nobody ever mentioned it before.  Family health history information can help health care providers determine which tests and screenings are recommended to help family members know their health risks for certain conditions.

Here is a link to more information on the importance of keeping a family health history.   We have created some tools to make it easier for you to collect information.  Here is a questionnaire for adolescent and adult family history collection.  If you would like a handy form to help you collect your family’s health history for preconception/prenatal purposes, click here.   Take advantage of this time to have your past shed light on the future.

Cleft lip and cleft palate: what it is and what can be done

Friday, June 25th, 2010

What do King Tutankhamun, Peyton Manning, Tom Brokaw, Jesse Jackson, and Stacy Keach all have in common?  It is an interesting group, isn’t it?  The one thing they all share is that they were all born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or even both.  About 4,200 babies are born each year in the United States with cleft lip/palate.  A cleft occurs when either the lip or the palate (or both) does not close completely.  These birth defects occur very early in gestation—the lip usually closes by about 5-6 weeks after conception and the palate is formed by 7 weeks.

How does this happen?  Well for the most part, we are not quite sure.  Most likely a number of genes and environmental factors play a role.  Some studies have shown that folic acid may help prevent oral-facial clefts—yet another good reason to make sure you take that 400mcg of folic acid before and during your early pregnancy!  We also know that some ethnic groups have a higher rate of clefts.  Cleft lip and palate occurs more frequently in certain Native American groups and Asians than it does in Caucasians.  It is least common in African Americans.  Isolated cleft palate, however, occurs less often (2,600 babies each year) and among all ethnic groups equally.

Babies born with clefts share a few common problems.  The first is feeding.  Although isolated cleft lip usually doesn’t disrupt feeding, a cleft palate definitely can.  An opening in the roof of the mouth is going to make it difficult for a baby to really be able to suck milk through a small opening efficiently.  Some may have problems with gagging, choking, or milk coming out of their nose.  There are specially made bottles that can help with these issues.  Breastfeeding is still strongly encouraged.  Although nursing can be very difficult, a mom can pump and use the special bottle to feed the baby.

Babies with clefts can also have speech problems, dental issues, and more frequent ear infections.  That is why most children born with clefts are seen by a team of specialists that includes a pediatrician, a dentist, an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist), and a speech-language specialist, an audiologist (hearing specialist) and a genetic counselor.  That team can help with any issues that may arise.

Surgery is used to repair cleft lip and cleft palate but the timing depends on the type of repair needed.  Cleft lip is frequently repaired by about 3 months of age and cleft palate between 6-18 months of age.  Sometimes children will need additional surgeries as they grow.  The March of Dimes has spent $6.9 million  in the past ten years trying to figure out why clefts happen and how to prevent them.  For more information you can check out the Cleft Palate Association.  If you have any specific questions feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.