Finally, you should consider genetic disorders that you or your partner may be carrying. You are at risk for disorders of this type if they have appeared anywhere in your family's medical history. In some cases, these disorders are related to specific ethnic groups. Tay-Sachs disease, for instance, is found predominantly among the Jewish population of Eastern European decent and sickle-cell disease among African-Americans. It is important that both you and your partner review your family histories of birth defects or mental retardation.
What can you do?
If you are among a population group at risk, or have a family history of birth defects or mental retardation, talk to your doctor before conception about screening procedures for you and your partner.
If either of you is diagnosed with a genetic disorder, you can discuss with your doctor the chances of you having a healthy baby before deciding whether to conceive. You can also learn about various methods of testing for genetic problems during your pregnancy. These include:
Amniocentesis - a procedure in which a small amount of fluid is taken from the sac around the fetus and tested.
Alpha-fetoprotein testing (AFP) - a test using a protein produced by the fetus that can be found in amniotic fluid and in the mother's blood.
Chronic villi sampling (CVS) - a test involving the small sprouts that develop on the wall of a fertilized egg and become the placenta.
Ultrasonography - a test using sound waves to produce an image of the fetus in the mother's uterus.
These methods can be used to assure you of your baby's health or prepare you for problems. Ask your doctor to explain how each works.