Predict Your Child's Health Future

You can pass on genes for asthma, obesity, and even ear infections. Read up on ways to keep your children healthy.

From relatively minor maladies like ear infections to serious diseases like diabetes, a surprising number of childhood health problems have a genetic component. "At least 80 percent of medical conditions are inherited to some extent," says Nancy Mendelsohn, M.D., a pediatric geneticist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

Of course, you can't change your children's genes, but your own health history can motivate you to be extra diligent about screenings and risk-reducing strategies. Here are nine conditions that run in families, along with ways to protect your kids.

Genetic Testing Before & During Pregnancy

Find out what genetic testing is, and whether you and your partner should get tested before you get pregnant.

What is genetic testing (carrier screening)?

Genetic testing is when a blood test is given to prospective or expecting parents to look for abnormal genes that can lead to certain diseases in their baby. Most genetic diseases are known as "recessive disorders," which means that each parent needs to pass along an affected gene to the baby in order for the child to be affected. In other words, if you screen positive for a genetic abnormality but your partner does not, your child will not inherit the condition. And even if you both screen positive, there's only a 25 percent chance your baby will have the disease.

How Much Will Your Baby Be Like You?

The complex gene pool you hand down can shape everything from how funny your child is to whether he likes peas.

Physical Traits

The instant our children are born, we look for reflections of ourselves in them. When Evie Crosby, of Tallahassee, Florida, delivered her son, Wyatt, she immediately asked her husband, Adam, "Does he have your chin?" Adam gave her a thumbs-up as the nurses cooed over Wyatt's deep cleft -- just as nurses had done when Adam was born 30 years earlier. Moments like these are more than a little profound. Seeing yourself -- and your spouse -- in your baby makes you truly feel like a family. Inheritance goes far beyond eye and hair color: Genes can even shape personality traits like leadership and spirituality. Despite startling advances in genetics, our understanding of how genes and environment interact is far from perfect. "Many traits have a large hereditary component, but genetics isn't destiny -- genes are just one influence on how kids turn out," says Joann Bodurtha, MD, professor of human genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond.

What Will My Baby Look Like?

Everyone wonders who baby will look like, but there's no way to know whether the traits we treasure in ourself, our partner, and our family will pop up in our offspring. You can, however, make an educated guess. Here, genetics experts show you how.

Eye Color

Both my husband and I have brown eyes. Does that guarantee us a dark-eyed child?

No, it doesn't. Two brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed baby. In fact, though less common, the reverse is also possible: two blue-eyed parents could get a brown-eyed baby. "The dominance of brown eyes is a familiar lesson from biology class, but eye color is actually determined by many genes," says Kate Garber, PhD, and director of education in the department of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine. "One gene might say, 'Let's make lots of blue,' and another says, 'Let's add some brown.' It's like layering colors from different crayons." Meanwhile, other genes control the amount of pigment. Thus, more blue pigment could trump less brown, or a variation such as hazel might emerge. It's not so much that genes are dominant and recessive but that they have stronger and lesser effects, says Robin Bennett, a genetic counselor at the University of Washington Medical Genetics Clinic, in Seattle. "Traditionally we thought dominant genes made the product and recessive ones did not. Now we know that sometimes they both do."

In the Genes: Where Baby's Looks Come From

From the color of her eyes to the shape of her nose, what (and who) Baby looks like has everyone speculating. Learn how your cutie's features are formed.

Once I got pregnant, my then husband and I became obsessed with whom our baby would resemble. So when Jason debuted at 7 pounds 3 ounces, with a shock of black hair, we were positive he'd inherited my family's average build and his dad's thick mane. Even so, he looked like he belonged to another couple -- an Inuit one, perhaps.

While you can't help but make predictions, you can never be sure what your little one will look like. "If we examined all a fetus's DNA, we still wouldn't be able to truly anticipate things," says Barry Starr, Ph.D., geneticist in residence at The Tech Museum, in San Jose, California. "So much is unknown about genes."

Genetics and Your Baby

How genetics influence your baby's looks and personality.

How Does Genetics Work?
As you wait for baby, you've probably tried to picture what he might look like. Will he be tall like his father? Will he have curly hair like yours? Or is he going to inherit his grandfather's sense of humor?

Experts estimate that there are 60,000 to 100,000 genes (made up of DNA) in a human being's 46 chromosomes. A baby gets 23 chromosomes from his mother and 23 from his father. With all the possible gene combinations, one pair of parents has the potential to produce 64 trillion different children. This probably gives you an idea of how impossible it is to predict just what your baby will look like. The science of genetics is complicated, but with a short course you can get some information to guide your imagination.

Do Fertility Treatments Cause Breast Cancer?

Experts weigh in on this important question and discuss who should have a mammogram before getting pregnant.

Between 2007 and 2011, two high-profile women -- Elizabeth Edwards, the late wife of former senator John Edwards, and E! News host, Giuliana Rancic, 37, announced breast cancer diagnoses after having undergone fertility treatments. The timing between their treatments and their diagnoses have caused some people to wonder whether there's a link between IVF and breast cancer, but experts say there is no known connection between the two at this time.

"IVF drugs do not cause cancer," says Cynthia Austin, M.D., Director of the In-Vitro Fertilization Program at the Cleveland Clinic.

10 Best Fertility Centers

In the first-ever investigation of its kind, find out which of the nation's centers offer the greatest chance of success.

Introduction

Fertility stories are always filled with emotion, uncertainty, and controversy -- childless couples who would make great parents, thrifty insurers who refuse to pay for treatments even though infertility stems from a medical problem, and ethical dilemmas that would make Hippocrates' head spin. So when we embarked on the search for the best fertility centers in the country almost two years ago, we were prepared for challenges. But we didn't expect that they would be nearly insurmountable.

Fertility Treatment Options

We explore 10 different types of fertility treatment options and examine the pros, cons, and costs of each one.

Some 7.3 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population in their reproductive years, are infertile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although these statistics are staggering, and infertility can take a huge toll on your emotional health, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful if you're infertile and you hope to have a baby. Science keeps advancing, treatments keep getting better, and more and more babies are being born using techniques such as the ones listed below. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, more than half of couples with infertility issues become pregnant after treatment--and that's not including high-tech, high-priced procedures like IVF.

Should You Be Evaluated for Infertility?

Learn who should be evaluated, what to expect at your first appointment, and which tests you and your partner can expect to undergo. We'll also give you tips for making the process easier.

More than 7.3 million Americans are infertile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you and your partner have had difficulties getting pregnant for a specific length of time, and/or you meet other criteria, your doctor may recommend that you be evaluated for infertility. Here, we give you general guidelines for who should be evaluated, and we tell you what to expect at your initial infertility consultation. We'll also offer detailed information on how infertility testing differs for men and women.

More than 7.3 million Americans are infertile. In many cases, an ob-gyn or family physician will recommend that a couple seek an infertility evaluation if:

They've been having regular, unprotected intercourse for one year (or six months if the female partner is over 35) and they're still not pregnant.

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