Know Your Genetics, Know Your Options
Think about your extended family. Is there a cousin, an uncle, a niece, a grandparent, or another blood relative with a diagnosed genetic disease?
If so, you could be a carrier of the gene that causes that disease and not know it. Not all genetic disorders are hereditary, but many are—and having an abnormal chromosome doesn’t mean the abnormality affects you in an obvious way. But it could affect your future child.
If there is any question about the health of your genes or your partner’s genes, genetic testing can be an important early step in your family planning process. Knowing your risks helps you make the most informed decisions about how you will build your family.
Some genetic anomalies can mutate as they pass from generation to generation, too. So the further down the line you are from the oldest known carrier, the higher the chances may be that you will pass that gene to your child if you are a carrier.
The good news is, the technology to detect and minimize risks of inherited disorders also is powerful. Blood tests can reveal your genetic risk before you even choose how or if you want to conceive and carry a child. And such tools as preimplantation genetic diagnosis can detect problems in a fertilized egg, giving in vitro fertilization clients the option not to implant affected embryos.
As you explore the medical side of this complex chromosomal equation, take care of the emotional side, too. Support groups can connect you with other parents who have traveled a road similar to yours and can help you navigate it. They can also help you open yourself to other ways of creating a family—choosing an egg or sperm donor, for example.
Your genetic tale is already told, but with the right treatment and support you can write a different genetic story for your child.