Health Alert: How genetic screening prepares you for your pregnancy

Health Alert: How genetic screening prepares you for your pregnancy
A new study by the CDC says about one-third of mothers do not wait long enough between pregnancies. (Source: WOIO)

(WOIO) - It won't be long before the cold, snowy weather settles in and that's typically the time when pregnancies skyrocket. It means now is a good time to prepare for a baby, as far health is concerned.

We know how important it is for a mom-to-be to take good care of herself for her baby's health. Now, genetic screening takes things a step further when it comes to knowing if a baby could have any special health needs, even before conception.

What researchers can find out about a "mom-and-dad-to-be" in labs these days can make all the difference when it comes to what's next in the doctor's office.

"It's nice to know ahead of time so that you can prepare. It helps you and your husband make reproductive decisions," says Dr. Jill Hechtman, M.D., said to be one of the country's leading Ob/Gyn's on a mission to get the word out about genetic screening for couples wanting to have a baby. "I think it's important to get the information out there so people do talk about it and talk about their risks with their doctor. This is probably the one thing you do in preparing for pregnancy. This is not as common as it should be."

She explains how a simple blood test or saliva test can let you know if you are a carrier of a genetic disorder.

It starts with mom. A positive test result would only mean a possibility she could pass it on to a her baby.

Then dad needs tested. If he's negative, they are in the clear. But if he's also positive, more specific tests need to be done.

"If you find out you're positive, then you can make plans and choices and decisions for where to deliver and which doctors to go to," explains Hechtman.

The screening can detect up to 274 different disorders. Most people only need tested for a few, including the four most common diseases and illnesses most associated with the parent's heritage. So the screening is tailored into specific panels.

As much as it can bring concerning news, the doctor says it's often a big relief instead.

While testing can be done during pregnancy, it's advised you get it done before getting pregnant. Hechtman notes, though, she's never had a couple decide they aren't having a baby because the screening showed they're carriers of some disorder.

The cost of genetic screening varies depending on what panel or group of tests are done. In many cases, it's covered by insurance.

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