We often blame the mother if things go wrong with babies. Did you know that Father and Mother both are equal contributors in building the genetic structure of a baby? There are 23 pairs of chromosomes that go together from father and mother to form a baby which means both father and mother are equally responsible to pass genetic issues to baby. This means while the mother bears the baby in her womb and takes care of his/her in utero, the health of the father at the time of conception should equally factor in. We see many babies born across the nation with heart diseases which are sometimes diagnosed as early as in womb at the fetal level. We deep dived in this concern to understand how Father’s health could be a factor to this or why it is important for Fathers to take care of their health as much as the mother needs to.
To further understand the concern of genetic diseases in babies, BabyChakra connected with one of the best Cardiac Electro Physiologist in India practising at Asian Heart Institute- Dr. Dora. Here are the excerpts of our interview with Dr Dora.
Q. What is the rate of fetal heart issues in India?
1 in 100 babies might be born with mild to severe heart issues. Some of these issues are genetic while others could be due to environmental factors. Fetal heart develops in first trimester. But the diagnosis can be made only after 18 weeks that too by experts.
Following are possible causes of fetal heart issues:
- Genetic transmission of the defective gene from either father or mother or both.
Anomalous chromosome numbers due to defect in chromosomal separation during cellular division. This leads to syndromes like down’s syndrome.
- Impact of disease depends on the degree of penetrance
- Marriages within family result in chromosomal anomalies
- Mothers who smoke or are exposed to passive smoking while pregnant
- External factors like some viral infections and drug therapy
- If woman is above 40 years of age or if father is above 45 years of age, the risk is higher
- If father or mother are alcoholic (drink heavily), this can cause fetal alcohol syndrome in baby
If there are no genetic health issues in father, yet he has a particular lifestyle like excessive smoking, alcohol etc, can this impact fetal health?
Q. How does Father’s lifestyle affect baby’s health?
If Father is above the age of 45 or is an alcoholic or a heavy smoker, the chances of health risks on baby is higher. If father becomes diabetic or suffer from heart disease at early age due to poor life style, then the baby also has a risk to develope diabetes and heart disease due to inheritance of diseased genes.
It is important for Fathers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and an exercise routine to have healthy heart and body. High dense nutrition diet, 30-45 minutes of regular exercise and avoiding excessive alcohol and smoking are the key factors to maintain a good lifestyle and health. These play a vital role in making a healthy baby too.
Q. We see children at young age having cardiac arrest. What could be the reason?
Cardiac arrest is related to the internal wiring of heart. If there is an anomaly in this network, it can cause cardiac arrest. Arrhythmia (heart beat) is another reason for a cardiac arrest. If the heartbeat is too fast as in greater than 250 to 300, this can lead to a cardiac arrest. There is a possible rare heart malfunctioning involved behind the cause of cardiac arrest. Some babies are born with arrhythmia and this should be diagnosed earlier to have some definitive therapy.
Genetically inherited syndromes can be one of the underlying cause of cardiac arrest.
Q. How many Pacing and ICD implantations do we see in India every year? How many of these cases involve children below the age of 5?
We see about 35000 Pace makers(80%) and ICD implants (20%) every year in India. Cases where babies or young children are involved is very low.
Q. Can Mothers with pacemakers and ICD implants have healthy pregnancy and babies?
Yes they can, provided the reason for their implant is not any severe underlying disease. In which case there could be an impact on baby’s health.
Dr. Dora also emphasized that rate of coronary heart issues have gone up and is evident in both men and women post 40 years of age. Father’s health is definitely a key factor contributing to making a healthy baby. So while mothers do all that they can to make a healthy baby, fathers should not neglect their health and should own equal responsibility of making a baby and bringing up a baby.
Let us conclude by saying- “Equal Parenting actually begins even before the baby is conceived and not really after the baby is born”