The genes your baby is born with can affect your baby's health in these ways:
- Single gene disorders are caused by a problem in a single gene. Genes contain the information your body's cells need to function. Single gene disorders run in families. Examples of single gene disorders are cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
- Chromosome disorders occur when all or part of a chromosome is missing or extra, or if the structure of one or more chromosomes is not normal. Chromosomes are structures where genes are located. Most chromosome disorders that involve whole chromosomes do not run in families.
Talk to your doctor about your and your partner's family health histories before becoming pregnant. This information can help your doctor find out any genetic risks you might have.
Depending on your genetic risk factors, your doctor might suggest you meet with a genetic professional. Some reasons a person or couple might seek genetic counseling are:
- A family history of a genetic condition, birth defect, chromosomal disorder, or cancer
- Two or more pregnancy losses, a stillbirth, or a baby who died
- A child with a known inherited disorder, birth defect, or intellectual disability
- A woman who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant at 35 years or older
- Test results that suggest a genetic condition is present
- Increased risk of getting or passing on a genetic disorder because of one's ethnic background
- People related by blood who want to have children together
During a consultation, the genetics professional meets with a person or couple to discuss genetic risks or to diagnose, confirm, or rule out a genetic condition. Sometimes, a couple chooses to have genetic testing. Some tests can help couples to know the chances that a person will get or pass on a genetic disorder. The genetics professional can help couples decide if genetic testing is the right choice for them.