Things to consider before pregnancy

Things to consider before pregnancy

"Deciding to have a baby is a big decision, and it comes with a lot of responsibilities," says Christopher S. Cowden, MD, MPH, Obstetrics/Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) at ARC Center Street in Kyle. "Along with all the many considerations parents have, like financial readiness, finding the right Ob/Gyn and pediatrician, and childcare, there are a few less common issues to consider. Specifically, checking for genetic issues, thinking about saving cord blood, and understanding the risks of prenatal diabetes."

Genetic screening: What is it?

Genetic screening is a medical test that examines an individual's DNA to identify gene changes or mutations. This process helps assess the risk of passing on genetic disorders to future generations and typically involves the following steps:

  1. Sample collection: A sample of DNA is collected, often through a blood sample, saliva, or a cheek swab.
  2. Laboratory analysis: The collected DNA sample is analyzed in a laboratory to identify any genetic variations or mutations. This analysis may include examining specific genes or regions of the genome.
  3. Interpretation of results: The results are interpreted by healthcare professionals to determine whether there are any genetic abnormalities or an increased risk of certain genetic conditions.

What are the benefits of genetic screenings?

Genetic screenings offer invaluable insights into the potential risks of inherited diseases. From carrier testing to comprehensive genetic panels, these tests provide an overview of an individual's genetic makeup, aiding in family planning decisions. Interpreting genetic test results allows prospective parents to make informed choices for a healthier future for their offspring, minimizing the risk of developmental disorders and genetic anomalies.

Genetic screening offers valuable information but can raise ethical, social, and psychological considerations for some. Consult your physician to understand results and make informed decisions on potential actions or interventions.

Cord blood banking: What is it?

Cord blood banking involves collecting and storing the blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. The blood from the umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, which can be used in medical treatments. These stem cells have the potential to develop into various types of cells, such as blood, immune system, and bone cells. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Collection: After the baby is born and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the cord is collected using a special bag.
  2. Processing: The collected blood is then processed to isolate and store the stem cells. The stem cells can be preserved at low temperatures for an extended period.
  3. Storage: The processed cord blood is stored in a cord blood bank, either a public bank or a private bank. Public banks make cord blood available for anyone in need, while private banks store it exclusively for the family.

Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat various diseases, particularly those related to the blood and immune system, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and certain genetic disorders. Families may choose to bank their baby's cord blood privately for potential future medical use within the family or donate it to a public cord blood bank for broader use.

It's important for parents to carefully consider the potential benefits, costs, and ethical implications before deciding whether to bank cord blood and whether to choose a public or private bank.

Benefits of cord blood banking

Cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells that can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including cancers, blood disorders, and immune system deficiencies. By banking cord blood, parents ensure a potential source of treatment for their child or other family members in the future. The collection process is non-invasive and poses no risks to the mother or the baby.

Gestational diabetes: What is it?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It can affect the mother's health and increase the risk of complications for the baby. Complications may include:

  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the mother: Women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the child: Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes may have a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Higher birth weight: Babies born to mothers with uncontrolled gestational diabetes may be larger than average, increasing the risk of complications during delivery.
  • Low blood sugar in newborns: After birth, the baby may experience low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) because their insulin production increases in response to the mother's high blood sugar levels.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome: Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may be at a higher risk of respiratory distress syndrome.

Risk factors of gestational diabetes

Maintaining a healthy body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and monitoring blood sugar levels are crucial in preventing gestational diabetes. The condition, linked to insulin resistance, can be managed through lifestyle adjustments and, if necessary, medical intervention. Regular testing and monitoring during pregnancy help mitigate the risks associated with gestational diabetes.

"By taking proactive measures in these three areas, parents can minimize the risk of inherited diseases, preserve a valuable biological resource, and navigate potential health challenges during pregnancy, fostering the best possible beginning for their child's early life," concludes Dr. Cowden. "Remember, informed decisions today lay the foundation for a healthier tomorrow."

Make an appointment today

ARC Ob/Gyn doctors are primary care physicians who focus on women's health issues, including pregnancy, fertility, birth control, mammograms, menopause, STD testing, ultrasounds, and more.

Let Dr. Cowden help you with your pregnancy journey or other women's health issues today. Dr. Cowden is accepting new patients, ages 13 and older, at ARC Center Street in Kyle. Call 737-404-0347 or make an appointment online through MyChart or ARC Help Me Book today.

Tags: cord blood banking, genetic testing, prenatal diabetes risks