Understanding the Genetic Lottery

Every cell in the human body has 46 chromosomes, made up of 23 pairs. You inherit one chromosome in each pair from your mother and the other chromosome from your father. Of the 23 pairs of chromosomes, there are 22 pairs of autosomes (chromosome pairs 1-22) and one pair of sex chromosomes, XX for women and XY for men. Chromosomes are made up of thousands of genes. Sex chromosomes carry the genes that transmit sex-linked traits and conditions; autosomes carry the genes that transmit traits and conditions other than those that are sex-linked. Your genes determine the colour of your eyes and hair and the shape of your toes, but also to a large extent your health.

In This Chapter

^ Finding out what's in your genetic baggage ^ Checking the genetic health of your embryos

In the process of reproduction, things sometimes go wrong and an embryo may end up with one chromosome too many or one chromosome too few. Usually such an error isn't compatible with life and the embryo dies.

However, sometimes the embryo survives and a baby is born. For example, babies born with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome 21, and they commonly have a range of health problems throughout their lives, including intellectual disability.

If you know that a certain genetic condition runs in your family or you know that you or your partner is affected by a genetic condition, you can see a geneticist or a genetic counsellor before you try to have a baby, to find out about the risk of passing on the condition to your offspring.

However, sometimes you may unknowingly be a carrier of a defective gene and you don't find out that you have a problem until it's too late — when your child is born with a genetic condition. If you plan to have more children, you can consult a geneticist or a genetic counsellor to discuss the risk of having another child affected by the same condition.

Health And Wellness In The 21st Century

Health And Wellness In The 21st Century

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