Why It’s Important to Learn Your Genotype
If you haven’t already, I would recommend you get your genotype tested.
Sickle cell is an inherited disease. This means if both parents carry a sickle gene, there is a chance the baby can have sickle cell disease.
If both parents have the sickle cell trait, there is a 25% chance of each baby having sickle cell disease. It’s possible for two people with the trait to have five children, all of whom have sickle cell disease. There is also the possibility that of those five children, none of them will have sickle cell disease.
It’s a genetic lottery. Except there is no life-changing prize money at the end; instead, there can be a life-altering, debilitating disease that brings copious amounts of pain and potential organ failure with it.
This risk decreases if one parent has normal blood. The problem is that most people who carry only one sickle cell gene are asymptomatic. As such, thousands of people globally may carry the gene without knowing it. This was the reality for my parents, who got married over 35 years ago. Back then, genotype testing was not the norm, so neither of my parents was aware that they had the sickle cell trait until they had children.
Thankfully, as time has progressed, so has medical science. Now, a simple blood test can let you know what your genotype is. The earlier you know this, the better. In this day and age, particularly in the Western world, there really is no excuse for people to find themselves in the situation my parents were in almost 40 years ago, only learning they were sickle cell carriers when they gave birth to a baby with the disease.
If you excuse my bias, considering my parents were unaware and uninformed until I came along, they’ve done amazingly well in raising and supporting me. They’ve also been fortunate to maintain a long and happy marriage while having a sick child.
Many married couples with sick children are not as fortunate. Having a child with sickle cell is no small task; it will change your life and your marriage forever. Also, the impact on siblings cannot be understated.
Having a child with sickle cell is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a decision at all. I am diametrically opposed to knowingly having babies when both parents have the sickle cell trait — for reasons that are obvious, I hope. But as much as I am against it, I have learned — particularly more recently — that not everyone feels as strongly as I do on this subject.
But you can only make good decisions in family planning once you have all the information required. Arm yourself with the information. Book a blood test with a reputable health provider in your locality and learn your genotype.
Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.