Planning a Family

The Prenatal Family Tree is a record of your family's health history that focuses on medical problems that are present since birth, or show a pattern of undiagnosed birth or pregnancy-related problems that may raise suspicion that a genetic birth defect runs in the family.

To build your prenatal family tree:

  • Explore the health history and birth-related problems of the families of both prospective parents through four generations. This includes the history of:
    • You and your spouse or mate
    • Any children born to either of you
    • Your and your mate's brothers and sisters and their children (i.e., your nieces and nephews)
    • Both sets of your parents, their siblings and children (i.e., all aunts, uncles and cousins)
    • Both sets of your maternal and paternal grandparents
  • Talk to living family members and seek out family documents or stories that may shed light on medical histories. Be sure to ask about:
    • Any known genetic birth defects or other medical problems that have been present since birth
    • The ethnic background of family members
    • A history of birth-related problems such as stillborn babies; infants who died within weeks or months of birth; a pattern of miscarriages, especially late in pregnancy; babies born with a low birth weight; premature deliveries
    • A history of mental retardation or slow development after birth
  • Record all information on a worksheet (see attached) for each family member.
  • If you begin to see or suspect a pattern, seek further information from any public health records that may be available, such as hospital and physician records, birth certificates, death certificates, school health histories or military records. Add it to your worksheets for individual family members.
  • Compile the information from your worksheets into the Summary Prenatal Family History worksheet (attached).
  • Share the information with your physician, and ask whether genetic counseling or DNA banking may be appropriate for you.

Prenatal Family History Worksheet
Preconception Checklist