Beth Walsh, MA
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop a chromosomal abnormality with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of having a baby that develops a chromosomal abnormality. Talk to your doctor about how you can reduce your risk.
The leading cause of chromosomal abnormality is the mother’s age. The likelihood increases as the mother’s age increase. However, more babies are born to younger women, so more younger women have babies with a chromosomal abnormality. The actual number of chromosomal abnormalities passed on is difficult to determine because most result in miscarriages early in the pregnancy.
These statistics only account for live births.
If you have already had a child affected by a chromosomal abnormality, you are at increased risk for passing along another chromosomal abnormality.
If you and your partner have experienced at least two spontaneous abortions, you should talk to your doctor about conducting an investigation of your chromosomes. This investigation comes back normal 95% of the time. If the results are not normal, you and your partner should meet with a human geneticist since this is an ever changing field.
A study published in February 2005, showed that prenatal exposure to combustion-related urban air pollutants alters the structure of chromosomes of babies in the womb. This is the first study to show that environmental exposure during pregnancy to such pollutants can cause a modest but significant increase in chromosomal abnormalities in fetal tissues.
Chromosome abnormalities. National Human Genome Research Institute website. Available at:
http://www.genome.gov/11508982. Updated October 13, 2011. Accessed July 24, 2013.
Study: prenatal exposure to air pollutants causes genetic alterations. Columbia University website. Available at:
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/05/02/pollution_pregnacy.html. Published February 22, 2005. Accessed July 24, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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