Most pregnancies or at least 50% of them are unplanned. If you are planning a pregnancy there are several steps and measures you can take to help maximize the chances of conceiving and of having a healthy baby. Typical recommendations include increasing your intake of folic acid, eliminating alcohol and quitting smoking. There are also a range of other recommendations such as vitamins to take, managing your diet and antenatal care visits. Besides all this, a growing interest amongst couples trying to conceive or planning a baby is preconception health testing.
What is preconception testing?
Naturally, your desire to become a parent comes with some concerns and thoughts about pregnancy and having a healthy baby. Whilst few pregnancies meet any complications or problems, some couples experience some kind of difficulty or complication either when trying to conceive or when the woman falls pregnant. Around 3% of pregnancies result in the birth of a child with some kind of major birth defect. Preconception health testing can help further reduce your chances of having any complications whatsoever be evaluating your family health history. It is a type of preventive medicine and many couples are turning to this aspect of prenatal care in order to ensure
How does it begin?
Preconception screening begins with an assessment of your health at its most basic. Your weight will be checked, your diet assessed, your blood pressure recorded and some aspects of your daily life discussed (such as whether you have any pets). The specialist will need to determine which aspects of your diet you might have to change or simple manage in a different way. In some cases, you might seek your family doctor to guide you and he or she will already have a lot of existing information about your health history recorded in your case folder. He or she will trace and record your gynecological history as well as your obstetric history and medical history. For your gynecological history anything from the dates of your menstrual cycles, the results of any smear tests, any checkups you have had for sexually transmitted diseases to the type of contraception you have used or are using will be taken into consideration.
For your obstetric history, you will be asked about any previous pregnancies you have had as well as any miscarriages or abortions.
There are a number of genetic diseases that can affect an unborn baby and the best way to understand whether the child you conceive stands any risk of developing any of these is by seeking the help of a genetic councilor. These people are specially trained to help you fully understand what genetic diseases might be involved as well as provide an assessment about the likelihood that your baby might have the disease/s in question. They can determine whether your baby will carry a genetic illness by checking your genetic health as well as that of your partner. You may have certain diseases in your family which are hereditary. A DNA test can help by knowing whether any of these disease-causing genes are present in your genetic makeup. Following this, you can get a fair idea of whether your baby will have the disease – a genetic counselor can carry out a risk evaluation for you. Genetic preconception testing will not only help you determine whether or not to have your own children but more importantly, how best to tailor your antenatal care. Your doctor will also find this information invaluable as it could help him or her anticipate certain eventualities or complications and deal with them in a timely manner as these would have been pre-empted and catered for.
Thanks to simple genetic DNA testing, the number of children born with inherited genetic defects has gone down by 90%. A number of companies such International Biosciences offer various types of genetic screening as well as prenatal tests.
The most common genetic diseases
Fragile X syndrome is the most common hereditary genetic disorder affecting males more often than females. Usually, people affected with disease exhibit some degree of mental retardation which in some rare cases can be extreme. A genetic test for the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene can determine whether you or your partner carries the gene. Anyone with a family history of mental retardation should consider this type of test. Another relatively common genetic disease is cystic fibrosis, a disease which affects the lungs and digestive system – a DNA test can confirm whether there is the gene mutation present which causes this disease. The gene is known as cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Other diseases you will be tested for during preconception genetic testing include: sickle cell anemia, Tay Sachs disease and thalassemia.
Karl M McDonald is a free lance writer specializing in the field of DNA and genetics. The author is a graduate in forensic science who has received his education in both the US and the UK. Karl has currently taken a backseat in the world of academia and dedicated himself to his two kids. He currently works as a free lance writer from home during his free time. The author normally specializes in writing about genetics and forensic science.