Genetic risks for children of women with myotonic dystrophy

Am J Hum Genet. 1991 Jun;48(6):1084-91.


In genetic counseling, the recommended risk estimate that any heterozygous woman with myotonic dystrophy (DM) will have a congenitally affected child is 3%-9%. However, after already having had such an offspring, a DM mother's risk increases to 20%-37%. The risks of 10% and 41%, respectively, calculated in this study are similar to the estimates in the literature. However, our data on clinical status of the mothers demonstrate that only women with multisystem effects of the disorder at the time of pregnancy and delivery are likely to have congenitally affected offspring. No heterozygous woman with polychromatic lens changes but no other clinically detectable multisystem involvement had a congenitally affected child. In addition, our data suggest that the chance of having a more severely affected child increases with greater severity of maternal disease. The findings of this study are relevant for genetic counseling, as the risk of having a congenitally affected child for women with classical manifestations of the disease is shown to be higher than predicted by the overall risk estimate for any heterozygous woman. We consider it appropriate to give these classically affected women risk figures which approach the recurrence risk given to mothers with congenitally affected children. However, the risk of having a congenitally affected child for heterozygous women with no multisystem involvement appears to be minimal. Our findings support the earlier proposed hypothesis of maternal metabolites acting on a heterozygous offspring. Neither genomic imprinting nor mitochondrial inheritance is able to explain the correlation between the clinical status of heterozygous mothers and that of their children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mutation
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / genetics*
  • Risk Factors