What are the chances of passing on a genetic disorder?

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Trying to conceive can raise a lot of questions. You’re trying to prepare your body for a baby, and suddenly, your genes and history won’t be just your own. How will these things affect your family’s future, and is it possible that you could pass on a genetic disorder?

Even if you display no symptoms, you can be a carrier for a genetic disorder that could be passed down to future generations. Genetic disorders are caused by a change in a person’s DNA, which can cause their genes to function in ways that could affect their health. Here are a few of the things that could affect the chances of passing on a genetic disorder.

Partner status

Passing on a genetic disorder is about both you and your partner:* If you are a carrier, it is important to also know your partner’s carrier status. According Good Start Genetics, makers of GeneVu, 1 in 19** people in the United States is a carrier of cystic fibrosis or spinal muscular atrophy, two of the most prevalent and severe genetic disorders.

With GeneVu, an at-home genetic screening test, you and your partner can be tested for both of these disorders. If you and your partner are carriers of the same genetic disorder, your chance of having an affected child is 1 in 4.


Ethnicity plays a role in many genetic disorders because ethnicity is tied closely to genetic ancestry. The risk of passing down certain genetic disorders can increase or decrease simply depending on whether you have a certain ethnic background.

For example, while screening for cystic fibrosis is appropriate for all ethnicities, the odds of being a carrier are higher for Caucasians, and Ashkenazi Jews than they are for Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Family history

Although a family history of a particular genetic disorder could be an indicator that you’re a carrier, it’s also important to remember that you could be a carrier with no family history whatsoever.

Carriers don’t have the disorder themselves and typically show no symptoms, and mutations can run through generations undetected if no one gets tested for the gene. In fact, many people don’t know they’re carriers until they have an affected child.

The chances of passing down a genetic disorder vary based on a number of factors, but the best way to find out if you’re a carrier is to get tested. Learn more with GeneVu.

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*Applies to most conditions that are autosomal recessive.
**Calculations based on overall carrier frequencies for the US population and may vary based on ethnicity and family history.

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