All soon-to-be mothers are curious to know just how their child will be once they enter the world. Thanks to technological advances in medicine we can now, more than ever, find out more about how the precious baby boy or girl will be before they ever slip into this world kicking and screaming. We can now predict many aspects of a baby's life while they're still in the womb.
This is very helpful for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, some people use this knowledge in order to terminate a pregnancy but this article is not about the ethics of pre-birth screening and the actions to follow. This is simply about the features that can be discovered while the baby is still in utero (what a great Nirvana album).
There are many syndromes and disorders that can be discovered far enough in advance that soon-to-be parents can take early steps towards making their family lives easier with their child. There are also the superficial features that can not only be predicted but also modified. I'm not sure what you think of designer babies but here are some things about your future child you can predict before you first hold them in your arms.
15 Right Or Left Hand?
This is a pretty interesting feature to predict. It actually is simply based on the hand a fetus favors while in utero.
It was once thought that handedness did not actually really begin to take full form until about the age of three or four but, according to New Scientist, this development can actually begin earlier than 10 weeks into pregnancy.
It's pretty incredible. The fetus tends to wave its arms about by 10 weeks and the arm it waves the most is typically the arm that will become dominant in terms of handedness. After 15 weeks the fetus will often begin sucking its thumb and the thumb that is sucked is also typically telling in terms of handedness. Of course, the majority of children wave and suck their right arm and thumb but it's still very interesting to be able to so easily tell something about your child.
14 The Baby's Gender
This is a very interesting one that I think still sits more in the old-wives-tale-style of "science". A lot of people mix up sex and gender when it comes to trying to predict if they will have a boy or girl and how they will identify themselves as they grow up. There are a lot of relatively unproven methods that seem to pass as general fact in society when it comes to gender. Apparently, based on the amount and type of movement the baby makes, you can predict just how they will function as either boy or girl.
I think a lot of this is rather unsubstantiated and likely sits more with predicting the sex of the child while in utero but that doesn't stop people from deciding that they now know how to predict the gender of their kid. I'm not sure gender will ever be a thing that can be fully and properly predicted from the womb though. There is such an established spectrum now.
13 20/20 Vision?
It turns out that we've learned an awful lot about just how the eyes develop whilst a child is still growing in the womb. It's incredible how well we're able to track the progress of our eyes. True, some of this work has been thanks to experiments with pregnant mice but the data is also easily established by observing the development of children after birth as well.
It turns out that mothers who get less sunlight during their pregnancy actually increase the risk of their kids getting vision disorders or issues as they grow.
Those who spend more time in the sun while pregnant actually unwittingly help their child's eyesight in the long run. It turns out that photons from the sun's rays still manage to penetrate the walls of the uterus and after a certain number of weeks, the fetus begins to adapt and develop based on this light exposure. If you're pregnant in the winter WhatToExpect.com suggests that you have a sun lamp handy to keep healthy development of your child's eyes.
12 Club Feet
Prenatal ultrasounds have come an awful long way since their introduction into the medical world and now that we have such advanced technology we're not only able to see the development of clubfeet in the womb but we can also present statistics regarding what causes the increased risk of clubfeet. For example, according to NCBI, those women who are over the age of 35 and are looking to have children have an increased risk of delivering a child with clubfeet.
Luckily for them, this condition is now relatively easily corrected without much risk. You'd think that since the dawn of the ultrasound doctors would be able to predict this condition simply by looking at the shape of the child, but this ability to recognize clubfeet is relatively new.
11 Hair Color
To be totally honest here, even well before you decide to have a child you can have a reasonably good idea of what hair colours will be thrown into the mix when you plan your family. For example, you are not likely to get a fiery red-headed child if only one of you has fiery red hair. You may have some sort of red tinge but without the fire.
If both of you happen to have red hair, then the chances your child will also have red hair goes up.
This is just thanks to the mixture of similar genetic information. However, medical science now allows for the payment of designer babies which basically allows you to take a look at the way in which your baby's genetic information might be shuffled and choose how to arrange it with hair colour in mind. That being said, if you just leave it be, the mutation of your child's genes may result in something you definitely did not expect.
10 A Small Or Big Baby?
Alright, so cards on the table here, you can't fully predict what the weight of your child will be in the long run. You can have a pretty good idea of how much they'll weigh at birth just given the pounds you put on and the size of the child in utero. But don't expect to be able to predict obesity. While there is one gene that is observed to have an influence on a child's weight, it is not exact in the study and it will not ultimately predict how your child will end up.
Why is that? Because weight is not a wholly genetic issue. Weight is largely controlled by personal choice as well. Healthy living through good food and exercise contribute much more (so far as we know now) to the ultimate weight of a human being. So, by all means, find out if your child will start out bigger or smaller...but just know that you won't be sure how they'll end up.
9 Skin Color
This one should seem like a no-brainer. The chances are that if two Caucasian people have a child together that they will have a caucasian child. If they are both pretty pale, you can typically expect a pale child. In this instance, you don't really need to predict anything while the child is still in utero. You can have a pretty good idea before you even decide to have a child. That being said, I know someone personally who has very pale parents who have a wonderfully olive complexion.
This seems not to make sense but if you dig far enough back in the family tree, there is a genetic mutation of darker skin tone, even without touching relation with people of African or Asian origin.
Given that, there is an analysis of several genes which allows for the incredibly accurate prediction of just what skin color you can expect your baby to have.
8 Tall Or Short?
According to Parents.com, there is a pretty easy way to predict the height of your baby. This prediction can be done without even being pregnant though. Say, for example, that you have a tall mother and short father. If you average out their height then it is pretty easy to guess the potential height of the baby. Add two inches to that average for a boy and subtract two inches for a girl.
Of course, if you have two average-height parents, you could either have a very short child or an NBA centre. That being said, you don't really need any of this to predict what's going to happen as the designer baby concept also comes into play here with prospective parents able to alter the genetic makeup of their child in order to increase or decrease height. Maybe not with a specific measurement but at least with some degree of certainty towards tall or short.
7 Screening For Down Syndrome
This is one of those controversial syndromes when it comes to screening. There has long been this idea that if someone knew they were having a child with Downs Syndrome they would not want to actually make it to full term. Well, now we have the technology to predict whether or not a child will suffer from this genetic disorder.
The ability to examine the genetic information of prospective births has raised a number of issues.
Being able to identify a full or partial third copy of chromosome 21 is a great discovery to allow parents to know what they will be likely dealing with when it comes to raising their kid...but it has also lead to the idea that termination of the pregnancy should be justified because of bringing a developmentally delayed child into the world. This is, of course, on a case-by-case basis.
6 Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (or FAS) is a very unfortunate, serious, and irresponsible issue. FAS is easily avoidable by simply not consuming alcohol while pregnant. Of course, there are people who have severe issues with control and because of this end up harming their children even before they have a chance to really develop.
It's pretty well easy to assume that a pregnant alcoholic will produce a child with some degree of FAS which would likely to one or several of the distinct features above as well as behavioral and developmental issues. But for those more discreet drinkers or those worried they may have overdone it on the booze before realizing they were pregnant can undergo a simple blood test now in order to examine a specific type of RNA that helps to predict the presence and severity of FAS.
5 Gene Disorders
According to New Scientist, there is not yet a totally accurate method for predicting single gene disorders in unborn children but it is expected that there will be one within the next four years. This is a pretty exciting development in medical technology. This will inevitably raise the issue of whether or not people move forward with or terminate pregnancies but, considering that this will spare both parents and children of horrible disorders like Huntingtons and Muscular Dystrophy and about 10, 000 other single gene disorders, I think it could be worth having this technology.
Even if it's just for parents to understand what they will have to deal with in the future with their child. There are blood tests that do allow predictions for many of these conditions now but it is not yet foolproof. But it seems like it will be in the very near future.
Phenylketonuria (or PKU) is an incredibly unfortunate disorder that occurs due to an overabundance of Phenylalanine in the body.
If undetected or untreated, this disorder can end up causing severe mental issues and defects in the child, though these issues might not become noticeable until about age two when it is too late to reverse the effects of the disorder. However, diet can balance out this issue and can lead to normal or at least relatively normally developed children. Of course, this must depend on both the mother and the child.
There is such a thing as maternal PKU in which she delivers too high a level of Phenylalanine to the fetus and this will lead to the same aforementioned issues. Thanks to genetic screening and therapy, though, there is an easy way to identify and treat this disorder now.
3 Gender Manipulation
Alright, now this is a pretty typical thing that can be predicted pretty easily during pregnancy. One can hardly call it predicting now. I mean, you can simply look at the ultrasound and guess from the growth of certain parts of the fetus just what your child will be in terms of sex.
But that's pretty well a primitive way of figuring out the sex of the child and it is not always exact thanks to poor imaging quality. However, thanks to the development of baby design through the manipulation of genetic information you can not only find out exactly the sex of your child but you can also manipulate the chromosomes of your prospective babies in order to decide for a certainty whether or not you want to have a boy or a girl.
2 Sickle Cell Anemia
Unfortunately, for those who have the disease, there is (as specified in the above photo) no cure as of yet for Sickle Cell Anemia. And this is not a pleasant disease by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, there have been significant developments in how to identify someone as early on as when still in the womb who happens to have this painful disease.
Now, it's true that having identified someone with the disease does very little since there is no cure for it but it does at least allow for some significant planning time to think about treatment and what it means to raise someone with such an unfortunate condition.
As we learn more about identifying those with the disease so early on, we will hopefully learn more about the genetic makeup of the disease to the point of being able to finally combat it.
Tay-Sachs Disease is a very scary and saddening disease, to be sure. Those with the infantile version of the disease don't typically make it past early childhood. The disease is essentially a degeneration and eradication of neurons which leads to loss of movement and brain function. This makes for a very heartbreaking disease.
There is no cure for this disease and the only treatment is to attempt to keep the child comfortable while they lose control of each of their functions and eventually die. This is why it is important to know that there is a process of screening amniotic fluid for this disease which could lead to the termination of a pregnancy based on saving a child from maybe only a few years of life all filled with needless suffering.