- by Dr Chaithra S K
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- Dec 08 2017
CHRONIC ILLNESS AND PREGNANCY: IS YOUR CHILD AT RISK?
Genes have a primary role to play in determining one’s health and well-being in the long run. A mother’s immediate health status lays the groundwork for most of her child’s general health. Children born to women suffering from chronic illnesses are more prone to develop similar conditions in the future. If you are suffering from a chronic disease, maintaining a healthy pregnancy itself is a cause of concern.
Let’s first understand how genes help shape our future. You must be already aware that genes carry the instructions for producing many proteins in our body that determine how we look and how our body functions. Genes are housed in structures called chromosomes.
So, is it possible that chronically ill mothers can pass on the disease to their children? What are some of the easily identifiable and common health problems that are likely to be passed on to your children? To mention a few are:
Vertically Transmitted Infections, are caused by pathogens and transmitted directly from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy or childbirth. The TORCH (Toxoplasma, rubella, cytomegalovirus [CMV], herpes) syndrome is an umbrella term for several vertically transmitted infections. The "others" category has rapidly expanded to include different viruses known to cause neonatal disease. Traditionally, the viral infections of concern during pregnancy were those caused by rubella virus, CMV, and herpes simplex virus (HSV). Other viruses now known to cause congenital infections include parvovirus B19 (B19V), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), measles virus, enteroviruses, adenovirus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Zika virus. Also of importance is hepatitis E virus because of the high mortality rate associated with infection in pregnant women. Viral infections in pregnancy are major causes of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality.
Diabetes is a major hereditary disease that is a cause of concern for expecting mothers. Diabetes could be pre existing or can develop gestational diabetes. The mother's excess amounts of blood glucose are transferred to the fetus during pregnancy. This causes the baby's body to secrete increased amounts of insulin, which results in increased tissue and fat deposits. The infant of a diabetic mother is often larger than expected for the gestational age.
The infant of a diabetic mother may have higher risks for serious problems during pregnancy and at birth. Problems during pregnancy may include increased risk for birth defects and stillbirth.
Migraines are another condition that can be inherited from mothers. These typically show up around the age of 8, but some kids show signs much sooner. Familial hemiplegic migraine is a type of migraine known to run in families. It is one of the most severe forms of migraine but also the easiest to diagnose because of its unusual symptoms. Although, migraines may run in the family, the frequency and intensity varies from one family member to another.
Allergies are often hereditary but don't expect your kids to be sensitive to the same things you are. However, it must be noted that only the susceptibility to allergies are passed on which can manifest in myriad ways.
Some vertically transmitted infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics if the mother is diagnosed early in her pregnancy. Many viral vertically transmitted infections have no effective treatment, but some can be prevented by vaccinating the mother prior to pregnancy. In some cases, a caesarean delivery can prevent the newborn from contact and infection. As far as other diseases are concerned, genes have a dominant role in determining their occurrence in the progeny. Such hereditary diseases cannot be completely prevented but risk factors could be avoided and kept in check by adopting a careful diet management.
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