On Mother's Day, Have a Heart-to-Heart about Family Health

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's note: This was originally created as an article on SparkPeople's sister site, BabyFit.com. We thought it was useful to a wide range of women and wanted to share it with you today.
Happy Mother's Day!

By Christine Johnson, dailySpark contributor

It’s extremely important to your health to research your family’s medical history, and there’s no better way to start than by asking your mother. Her knowledge of women’s health can help you learn what to expect at different stages of your life. Talking about health--and family illnesses--can be tough sometimes, but the information you gain is incredibly valuable. Not every mother and daughter relationship is the same, so this could be a bonding experience. While not all of these questions will apply to your situation, we included a broad range to help you get the conversation started.

Here are ways you can break the ice.

Starting from your first visit to the OB/GYN, your mother was likely there to help fill out forms and ease your anxiety over that first annual exam. Many health issues are hereditary, such as certain kinds of cancer, reproductive troubles, high blood pressure and heart complications. Determining your risk factors for these complications will help your health-care provider find the best health plan for your unique situation. Start by asking your mom these simple questions:
  • Do you or does anyone else in the family have a history of cardiovascular complications (heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, etc)?
  • Is there a history of breast, uterine, ovarian, or cervical cancer in the family?
  • Have you ever experienced abnormal periods (irregular cycles, severe cramping, heavy or abnormal flow)?
  • Is there any chance I may be at risk for ovarian cysts or endometriosis?
  • At what age did you start menopause?
  • Did you undergo any hormone replacement therapy?
  • Do you continue to get annual exams?
  • Do you have an annual mammogram?
  • Have you ever found a lump?
  • Did you ever struggle with your weight?
  • Do we have a history of obesity or weight problems in the family?
  • Did you ever battle with low self-esteem?
  • How did you stay active while you had kids at home?
  • How did you balance motherhood with the rest of your life?
  • How did you learn to accept (or love) your body?

These are just a few questions, some to which you may already know the answer. You may even have questions of your own, unique to your own life. Knowing the answers to these questions and being able to share them with your health-care provider means that he or she will be able to provide you with better care.

After I delivered my first child, my mom and I used these questions to compare the differences in our experiences--we spent 90 minutes on the telephone, reflecting on family health, parenting and pregnancy! I was just as surprised at the similarities as I was with the differences in each of our unique experiences!

While talking about health and history might not be the brightest of topics, see this as an opportunity to get to know your mother a bit better. Knowing where you've come from and who you are--and who your mom is--will help you in your future.

Have you had a family health discussion with your mother/daughter? If you're already a mother, consider having this conversation with your daughter--or son.

Christine Johnson is a regular BabyFit contributor and the mother of one daughter.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


CECELW 6/23/2020
we've had this discussion as well. Uncomfortable, but important Report
ANASTASIA421 12/31/2019
Thank you for the post. Greetings from Greece. Report
My father died of heart disease. Report
I agree it's a great idea, but when you come from a dysfunctional family, talks like that are very rare. Report
It is important to know your family histories which is why when I adopted my kids I kept several relatives in the picture. Not just for history but also to have a link to biological family Report
About 15 years ago I have to have minor surgery. I did the research about the condition and learned it was sexually transmitted. I knew that wasn't correct in my case (you have to have one before you can get the other...) I didn't tell my family out of embarrassment. When I finally - in tears - told my mother she said, "Oh I had that. It's no big deal. It's hereditary." She didn't even know it was a STD. And she had inherited it from her mother. If I had known her health history it would have saved me a lot of anxiety. Report
When my Dad had a blood clog years ago, my sister, Mom and I addressed our history of ailments. It seems as if I've missed all of the hereditary illnesses that run in our family, thank God. My daughter and I discuss our health frequently as she is a diabetic and have allergies. We work on prevention by exercising and eating as heathy as we can. My sister and I talk about it on the regular. Good idea before it's too late! Report
I discussed the family health with my mom and found many things that ran in the family I never knew. Thanks for the push. Report
This blog is very near and dear to me as my mother suffers from several illnesses stemming from diabetes which was onset by her weight. I am striving hard to be healthier and she often tells me to do something now before it is too late. My mom is my motivator to do things different Report
I wish I had the guts to have this talk with my mom. She has several health problems that are only made worse by her weight, inactivity and poor eating. About five years ago we watched my grandmother's (her mom) health decline quickly until she passed away from health problems that would have improved dramatically had she been willing to make healthy lifestyle changes. Back then, we both discussed how sad it was that she refused to make such changes. We both agreed that we didn't want to go that route. Now it seems my mother has forgotten and I'm really sad about that! Report
With my 32 medical condtions, we are constantly having discussions about health issues. Report
My dad raised me, and I know more about my step-mom's family history than my biological mom's. My mom's family all lives on the other side of the country and we don't talk often. They are generally a really healthy family. But some of these questions do concern me so I should probably just call and ask! I am more concerned about my dad's family. They are not a healthy family, and I can't talk to my dad about any of this because he died in a car accident 12 years ago. I don't really talk to my dad's family. Report
I agree its very important to have a family health discussions. After finding out that my mom and most of my aunts and uncle on both sides of the family have become diabetic once in their 60's, i felt i had to lose weigh and eat better to stay healthy. Report
I was adopted and so have not had family health history to base anything on. In addision, my mom did not like doctors and never even suggested I see an ob-gyn as a teen. As a result my first pap smear/exam did not happen until I was pregnant, at which time I was told I had cervical displasia (a precursor to cervical cancer). Luckily it was caught and treated early and I have had no unusual pap results since. My 11yo daughter sees her doctor at least once a year and we discuss our family history. Report
Time to have a talk with mom! Report
Yes I have had a talk with my children about our family medical conditions. This is good because my youngest has high blood pressure and he's only 28, so he knows that this does run in the family. Report
My mother's mother never discussed such delicate health issues, though she had ovarian cancer and died of emphysema. Because of that, my mother has been very thorough in describing her health issues, and that of my father to us four kids. I am passing that information down to my daughter as well, though she is squeamish and doesn't like hearing about it (she's almost 18). I am glad to know of my mother's early hysterectomy, battle with high cholesterol and heart disease. It keeps me seeing my gyn and regular GP annually! Report
Very interesting. Something I need to do with my daughters. Report
I've already had that talk with both my daughters. One is a mother of 2 & the other not yet.I found it very important to discuss these matters when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 81 yrs old! Yes thankfully my sister insisted she get her annual exam. She is now cancer free for 2 years. Goes to show cancer doesn't have a age limit either! Report
My sisters & I grew up with a general awareness of our family's health history, but when the doctors began to diagnose my youngest sister's illness, we learned how important it is to know not just the immediate past, but also the more distant past. My sister had Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease which requires that both parents be carriers. There was no immediate history of the disease, but as we looked at family records, we found several times that children on both sides of the family had died of "consumption." Was it CF? We'll never know. Now, it's a known, testable factor for future generations. Report
A great article - my 9 year old daughter and I often have cosy chats about family matters. Unfortunately my mum died before I was even pregnant, so we didn't discuss gynae matters... a real shame as I have a bicornurate uterus which caused me many problems. Report
Thanks for the article. Numerous times, my mother and I have discussed this information; and it is most certainly a blessing to do so. I don't have any children; however, this information has also been discussed between our siblings, nieces and other members of the extended family. Report
Wonderful reminder! Thanks for the post. Report
This is just a minor comment/suggestion about blog articles in general. Those that are intended to be tied to an event or holiday such as this one need to be posted a little sooner. It is likely that most members will not see this blog until after Mother's Day. Being aware of your genetic health history is certainly a good idea at any time, but if SP wants to tie them to a particular day, recognition, or event, then they should be posted at least the day before, since most of us don't get the email notification of new daily blogs until the next day. Report
My sons and I have had health conversations, but some of the questions in the blog we have yet to discuss. Thank you Christine for including the self-esteem and the history of obesity as topics to discuss with our adult children.

MARY Report
Both my adult son and adult daughter know our family medical history. They needed to know before their children were born. Report
This is a wonderful and important article. YOU CANNOT START TOO SOON IN DISCUSSING FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY WITH YOUR KIDS. Our family is rife with gynecological problems. My mom had a hysterectomy in her 50s. I lost an ovary to a ruptured cyst in my 20s, and almost bled to death. My daughter had an ovarian cyst at age 4 that triggered full-blown puberty (and juvenile hypertension) by age 5. Now, only two weeks ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Luckily, it may have been caught in time; her prognosis seems good at present. But we didn't know until we talked with her surgeon that we could have had genetic counseling to confirm our high family risk, which would have paved the way to more frequent and detailed checkups that would have been covered by insurance.

My daughter (now age 10) has already been told that as an adult, she should inform all physicians of her family history and INSIST on regular and thorough testing. In the meantime, you can bet I'll be fighting for both her and myself to receive far more frequent and detailed exams, despite the fact that I've been pooh-poohed over my concerns in the past. The evidence is clear, and there's nothing more important to me than my daughter's health.
Guess I'd like to add, though, that one daughter has adopted 2 children from Russia, so they have no health background at all for them. Not everyone is so lucky to have someone to talk with about family history. Report
It's good to know your family history from both your mother's and your father's sides if you can. My dad's side had hypertension, and my mom's had breast cancer. One physician commented that I was lucky not to get the same risks from both sides, so that's slightly comforting. I've passed on the information to my daughters, too. Report
I have had a family health discussion with my mom and dad. Also with my sons. Report