March 19, 2024 – People born of incest may feel like they cannot reproduce for fear of giving birth to a baby with life-threatening genetic anomalies.

One such person is 64-year-old Teresa Weiler. She found out in 1985 that her father was her mother’s brother. Meanwhile, Steve Edsel, found out via AncestryDNA that his parents were first-degree relatives, either siblings or father-daughter.

The prevalence of incest in the US is far more common than previously thought, with research including common genealogy tests putting the rate at one in 7,000. 

Dr Jim Wilson, from the University of Edinburgh who conducted that research, said: ‘That’s way, way more than I think many people would ever imagine.’ 

It’s a far cry from one 1975 estimate in a psychiatric textbook, putting the rate at about one in a million.

DNA tests that arrive in the mail, including Ancestry and 23&me, can be helpful tools in determining whether someone has genetic predispositions for certain conditions.

Still, they occasionally learn the disturbing truth about their parentage.

Babies born of incest are at increased risk of suffering birth defects, developmental delays, and genetic disorders such as blindness, hearing loss, neonatal diabetes, and limb malformations.

The risks of two siblings or a parent and child having a baby are manifold. When two closely related people have sex, and the female becomes pregnant, there is an increased risk of recessive gene disorders.