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Are Certain Pregnancy Conditions Hereditary?

 

All soon-to-be parents want their children to be healthy and to have a pregnancy free of major complications. Unfortunately, complications can occur during pregnancy, either with the mother's health or the child's. Sometimes, the mother and child are at risk for certain complications throughout the pregnancy because of their family history and genetics, as pregnancy conditions like extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, have been found to be hereditary. Women whose mothers, aunts, cousins or sisters who experienced a specific complication may have a higher risk of also having that certain complication.

Know your risks by first asking your family members what health issues, if any, they experienced while pregnant. Here are four common pregnancy conditions with hereditary links that you should ask about:

"Severe morning sickness can cause women to become dehydrated, lose weight and even faint."

Hyperemesis gravidarum, aka extreme morning sickness

Do you remember when the press kept talking about Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge's, morning sickness when she was pregnant with Prince George, her and Prince William's first child? Everyone was talking about it because she experienced a type of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. Hyperemsis gravidarum can be downright awful to experience. According to Medline Plus, severe morning sickness can cause women to become dehydrated, lose weight and even faint. This condition is persistent, and yes, it is hereditary.

Researchers from the University of California - Los Angeles and the University of Southern California found that pregnant women with a sister who had experienced hyperemesis gravidarum while pregnant had "a more than 17-fold risk of experiencing the debilitating condition, too." Odds weren't as high for having a mother or grandmother with the condition, but it was still found that if the mother had a female relative - even through the child's father's side - who experienced extreme morning sickness, there was an increased chance that she could have it too. 

Preeclampsia

This condition may sound familiar to you because preeclampsia is estimated to impact 3 to 6 percent of pregnancies, according to a historical analysis of the condition by researchers at Columbia University. Preeclampsia occurs when the mother's blood pressure increases or spikes, damaging internal organs, specifically the kidneys, the Mayo Clinic noted. Symptoms include protein in the urine, which points to kidney problems, shortness of breath and headaches, among others. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest risk factors for preeclampsia is a family history of the condition. Also, women with a personal history of high blood pressure have an increased risk for the complication.  

Woman experiencing extreme morning sickness during first trimester.Extreme morning sickness can be passed down from mother to daughter.

Cholestasis

Characterized by extreme itching and dark urine, cholestasis affects about 1 in every 1,000 pregnancies, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The Mayo Clinic noted that cholestasis often runs in families, so women who know of close relatives who have had this condition may have a higher risk of also developing it. Cholestasis is a condition in which a woman's pregnancy hormones impact the gallbladder, ultimately resulting in bile building up in the liver and potentially entering the bloodstream, the association noted. 

Blood clots

According to the American Pregnancy Association, women with family history of blood clots or deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) have an increased risk of also experiencing these conditions while pregnant. Blood clots can cause major complications to a woman's pregnancy, resulting in heart attacks or even miscarriage, the association noted, but they are most likely during the first trimester and the first six weeks postpartum. Symptoms include pain or swelling in a limb and pain that increases while walking. 

If the women in your family have had the same pregnancy complications, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor. But remember, just because your risk is heightened for a certain condition doesn't mean that you may necessarily experience it. The more information you and your doctor have about your family's medical history, the better prepared you, your loved ones and your OB/GYN may be if you or your child develops a condition in utero.

Even if you've talked to your family members and find you don't have a history of certain pregnancy conditions, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor if you feel off during your pregnancy. Communication is always key when protecting your little one!