Passing on Inherited Disease
What are the risks of your child inheriting a disease from you and your partner?
Posted: 30 June 2008
Just as things like eye colour and height are affected by the genetic make-up our children will inherit from us as their parents, they may sometimes also inherit a medical condition. This will continue through their genetic line too.
If you are concerned about passing on an inherited condition, remember that this is extremely rare and happens to one in every several thousand (if not more) cases.
What Conditions can be Passed On?
A few conditions can be inherited from one parent. These include Marfan Syndrome and Huntingdon’s Disease.
Most inherited conditions only manifest themselves in the child when both parents have the genetic disorder which causes the condition. These include sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs Disease, and spinal muscular atrophy.
How do you Know if You are at Risk of Passing a Condition on?
If there is a family history of a certain condition, you can seek medical advice before you try for a baby. In some instances it is possible to run tests on you and your partner to find out if you are both carriers of a particular gene.
If you feel comfortable telling your close family that you are going to try for a baby, you can discreetly ask them if they know of any family conditions. If you and your partner can fill your GP or midwife in on as much family history as possible, this will help in being able to identify increased risks.
Unfortunately, in the case of diseases which require both parents to carry the condition, the parents themselves may be completely healthy and have no idea that they are a carrier until the disease occurs in the child they have together.
Some inherited diseases (such as Tay Sachs) can be tested for in early pregnancy if your midwife believes there is an increased risk. (In the case of Tay Sachs, for example, it is much more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, though it does occur among other ethnic groups too.)
Other conditions for which antenatal screening can be offered include congenital heart defects and spina bifida.
Discuss this story