Children’s Health and Parents Related by Blood – Genetic Risk

What is consanguinity?

Consanguinity refers to relationships between blood relatives e.g. first cousins which is common in a number of different cultures.

Families from all communities can be affected by genetic disorders.  We know more about genes today than we used to, so it’s right that we have access to information and services if we need them.

What are the health risks associated with consanguinity?

There are many health problems associated with genes, but in infant health there is particular concern with problems caused by recessive genes.  Common examples of these types of conditions include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, thalassaemia and some neurological and metabolic diseases.  For conditions caused by recessive genes, the risk is higher in families with a marriage to a close relative, e.g. a cousin, as it’s more likely they both carry the same gene.  It’s important to note that most children born to cousins are healthy and unaffected but babies born to parents who have the same recessive gene are at a higher risk of being born with an inherited health problem.  The LSCB seeks to raise awareness of this issue in order to reduce the incidence of related disabilities.

Concerned about genetic risk?

In the first instance, do speak to your GP for support and guidance.  You could also refer to the useful website links below or read our leaflet on Children’s Health and Parents Related by Blood.

If you are still concerned, you could ask for a referral to a genetic counsellor will be able to give a more rounded picture about your risk of genetic problems and what your choices are around this.  Genetics affect us all, the more we understand the issues and the risks, the more we will be able to make informed choices.  The Regional Genetics Service covering the Redbridge area is the Regional Genetics Service North Thames (East)  based at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust.

Useful Links:


BBC Programme – Should I Marry My Cousin?

Personal documentary presenting different aspects of first-cousin marriage from Bradford-born 18 year old British Pakistani Hiba.  The documentary includes discussion of genetic testing and offers both for and against arguments in relation to cousin marriage.  The programme was first broadcast on 4 July 2017 and will be available for a further 5 months to watch on-line.