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What can be the implications of a consanguineous marriage?

Q: I am a 22 years old male, in love with a girl who is my relative. Recently I heard that if someone marries his or her relative, then the offspring of the couple is likely to be born handicapped or with some defect. Is this true? The girl whom I am in love with is not a close relative. Her grandmother and my grandfather are brother and sister. I'm really worried. Please help.

A:A consanguineous marriage is one between relatives who are second cousins or closer. The chances of any couple having a child with a serious medical problem in the general population are about 2 percent, which increases to about 3 percent in couples who are first cousins (but have no known genetic disease in the family). Thus, the likelihood is not significantly higher than in any other couple. In case of a history of an autosomal recessive disease in the family, the risk of having a child with a serious disorder can go up to 25 percent, especially if the couple are first cousins and carriers of the mutant gene. You can go to a genetic counsellor and discuss the issue. If there is a history of a known mutation in the family, the counsellor may draw a pedigree tree, test for carrier status or discuss the need for prenatal diagnosis.

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