Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Risk Factors for Having a Fetus with Birth Defects or Down Syndrome

If you have any risk factors for having a fetus with a birth defect, talk with your doctor or a genetic counselor to help you decide which screening or diagnostic tests will be useful for you.

You may be at risk for having a fetus (baby) with birth defects because:

  • Of your age. As you get older, you have a greater chance of having a baby with a birth defect. Many doctors use 35 and older as the age for higher risk.
  • You or the baby's father carries an abnormal gene that is known to cause a disease, such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, or cystic fibrosis.
  • You or the baby's father has a family history of a genetic disorder or birth defect.
  • You or the baby's father has a child who has a genetic disorder or birth defect.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have used a medicine that is known to cause birth defects. Talk to your doctor about any medicine you have taken in the months before or during your pregnancy.

Women with known risk factors are usually offered a chorionic villus sampling in the late first trimester or an amniocentesis in the second trimester. If you have an amniocentesis, a triple or quadruple screen test for Down syndrome and birth defects is not necessary.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Last RevisedJuly 7, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 07, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

Woman smiling as she reads pregnancy test
Slideshow
pregnant woman with salad
Quiz
 
pregnancy am i pregnant
Article
babyapp
NEW
 

slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 

pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video