How Genetics Impact Your Pregnancy

This article is sponsored by MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center.

Genetics PregnancyPregnancy is a natural process that the human body is exquisitely designed to perform. But sometimes abnormalities are discovered that may require a maternal-fetal medicine provider to help better understand the condition. Whether spotted during an ultrasound or on a lab test, these abnormalities can have serious implications for both baby and the parents. This is where a consultation with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist can be of great help in understanding why and how these things happen, as well as to develop a specialized care plan to see you through the pregnancy for a healthy baby and mother. 

Genes pass information and patterns from generation to generation, like eye color and blood type. They can also pass on medical conditions that can impact the pregnancy or require additional care. Genetics is the hand you are dealt and the hand you deal to your child.

Family Medical History

Understanding your medical history can help you and your provider prepare a specialized care plan to identify and understand conditions that may harm the pregnancy or worsen the condition of the mother. If you or your partner have a personal or family history of a medical condition like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, or congenital heart defects, visiting with a maternal-fetal medicine provider can help provide a full picture of how those genes, whether you have the condition or are just a carrier, can impact your pregnancy. Certain groups of people can be more likely to carry these types of diseases. People who are of Ashkenazi Jewish, French Canadian, Southwest Asian, Mediterranean Middle Eastern, Amish, Mennonite or Hutterite populations may be referred to genetic testing to determine the risk of these conditions.

Genetic Screening

During your first and second trimester, screening for common medical conditions is done through a combination of blood tests and ultrasounds to look for conditions like Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, or Spina Bifida. These conditions are genetic in the sense they result from abnormalities in the DNA, but they are not inherited from the parent. They occur randomly and the risk can be related to the mother’s age.

It’s important to note that these screening tests can have false positives, so a referral to maternal-fetal medicine can help clarify the risk of these conditions and help to answer your questions. At your 20-week checkup, a more concrete diagnosis can be made.
Genetics Pregnancy

Genetic Anatomy Ultrasound

The 20-week anatomy ultrasound is when most parents first get to view their baby. Most of the time, these ultrasounds do not show any abnormalities. In those rare times when they do, your doctor may refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist for a more detailed ultrasound to fully evaluate your baby, take the time to explain the ultrasound findings, and provide options for genetic testing either by a blood draw or an amniocentesis (a sampling of the fluid surrounding the baby), to get you the information you need for your pregnancy.

The experts at MercyOne Prenatal Care are here to help you understand all the risks, benefits, and alternatives to treatment options available. While this may be a stressful time, their providers are here to help deliver a healthy baby and care for a healthy mother.

About the author:

Dr. Jason Picconi is the only physician in the state of Iowa that is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Clinical Genetics. Dr. Picconi has been practicing maternal-fetal medicine for 7 years.


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This article is part of a series of sponsored articles by MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center

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Genetics Pregnancy


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