Family Health History and Your Child
You might not realize that your mother’s diabetes or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but collecting your family history information can be important for keeping your child healthy.
Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disease. It can also reveal whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic diseases first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.
Most people do not think that chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes affect children, but children with a strong family history of these diseases can show signs in childhood. However, having a family history of a disease does not mean that your child will get that disease. Children with a family history of chronic diseases can benefit from developing good lifestyle habits, such as exercising and eating healthy, right away. These habits can benefit the entire family and might help prevent or delay chronic diseases.
Family Health History Checklist: Your Child
□ Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Include conditions each relative has or had, and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
□ Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family histories, called “My Family Health PortraitExternal.”
□ Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. Gather family history information before seeing the doctor. Even if you don’t know all of your child’s family health history information, share what you do know with your doctor. Fill out family history forms carefully. Families that might have another child should share family health history information with the mother’s doctor.
□ Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor. Check with relatives between your child’s visits with a doctor to see if they have any newly diagnosed conditions.
Tools and Resources
March of Dimes’ News Moms Need Blog: Family Health HistoryExternal
Read how family health history information is important for your child’s health.
Podcast: Family History – An Early Warning for Your Child
Listen to learn more about how knowing your family history information could benefit your entire family.
If you are adopting a baby
- Get family health history information from the baby’s birth mother and birth father, if possible.
- Examples of forms that you could use to collect family health history from the birth parents include
It might be frustrating not to have all of the family health history information for your child, but any information can be helpful.
If you used a sperm or egg donor to get pregnant
- Save all family health history information about the donor as available.
If you are adopted
- If available, collect medical information on your birth relatives. Laws concerning medical information collection vary by state.
- Some adoption agencies collect medical information on birth relatives.
- The Child Welfare Information GatewayExternal has information on adoption, which could be helpful if you decide to search for your birth parents.
- Contact your state’s health and social service agency for information about how to access medical or legal records.