Healthy Tips

The Health You Pass On

How Family History Impacts Family Planning

Family history can function as a helpful guide to a healthy life, informing your primary care physician about what risk factors you may have and how to guide your lifestyle.

It can be especially beneficial when planning for a family of your own. Certain inherited traits can put you or your baby at higher risk for complications or hereditary conditions. Your maternity care provider will likely inquire about family history and you can work together toward the best course of care for you and your preconception health.

Cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and cerebral palsy are among the conditions care providers look for,” says Monica J. Fudala, MD, a family medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital and Grayslake Outpatient Center. “We may also ask you about any history of recurrent miscarriages or complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or postpartum depression.”

From these conversations, your maternity care provider may determine you could benefit from genetic testing. Genetic testing is recommended for certain groups in particular due to links between specific medical conditions and ethnicity. This includes sickle cell disease and African Americans, Tay-Sachs disease and Eastern Europeans of Jewish decent and French Canadians, and cystic fibrosis and Caucasians. Mediterranean, African and South Asian people may also be screened for thalassemia, a blood disorder.

Further screening may be suggested for other concerns as well, such as juvenile deafness or blindness, unexplained infertility, or unexplained seizures or malformations. 

Some other conditions that have a genetic link:

If your family history includes any of these conditions, it could be worth discussing with a genetic specialist.