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Are children of kidney failure patients healthy, should their kidneys be checked?

Are birth defects more common in the children of parents with kidney diseases?

Most babies are normal, and this is also the case for children born to parents if one of them has kidney disease. There is some research suggesting that there may be a higher miscarriage rate in kidney patients, especially in women with kidney transplants, but the babies that are born do not have a rate of birth defects higher than in normal people.

Drugs are used to treat people with kidney problems, and there is often concern that the drugs might cause birth defects. Research has been carried out with all the commonly used drugs in kidney patients; problems do not seem to occur commonly. However, if a pregnancy is to be planned, it is sensible to ask your doctor in advance about any changes in drug therapy that might be sensible.

Some of the newer anti-rejection drugs have not been in use for long enough to be sure of their safety in pregnancy.  In particular, women taking mycophenolate have a high risk of carrying a child with birth defects if they get pregnant whilst taking mycophenolate.  Check with your doctor for the most up to date information.

Could the baby have inherited kidney disease, and what checks should be performed on the baby?

Some kidney diseases can be inherited, others do not seem to be. Therefore it is important to know what caused your kidney disease in the first place (though doctors cannot tell what caused kidney failure in many people). Many types of kidney disease are not fully understood, and if more than one person in the family has kidney failure, it may be sensible to check children for kidney diseases.

Although research is showing the precise genetic problem that causes some inherited conditions, this does not mean that genetic testing on a blood sample or tissue sample can tell whether someone has a condition, or is a carrier. Often research has shown that several different genetic abnormalities can cause the same clinical condition, making testing difficult. Ask your specialist whether genetic testing is possible in your case.

Here is a brief list of kidney diseases and links to further information:-

  • Polycystic Kidney Disease - runs in families, for information click here.
  • Reflux Nephropathy - can be inherited, for information click here.
  • Alport’s syndrome - runs in families, for information click here.
  • Diabetes - kidney failure due to diabetes does not generally run in families, though a tendency to diabetes can be inherited. No testing of children for kidney disease is required.
  • Glomerulonephritis - does not usually run in families, but if there is more than one person in a family with glomerulonephritis, screening should be considered. Talk to your doctors and see if testing is advisable. A urine test for blood or protein should detect glomerulonephritis. For more information on glomerulonephritis in adults, click here.

14. Kidney disease developing during pregnancy in previously healthy women

The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.

NKF Controlled Document No. 213: Are children of kidney failure patients healthy, should their kidneys be checked? written: 15/12/2002 last reviewed: 13/03/2019