Family Planning Options for Partners With Sickle Cell Trait

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by Mary Shaniqua |

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Living with sickle cell disease is no easy feat. At 32, I still struggle to understand my body and live as freely as I’d like. Because it’s within our power to prevent children from experiencing this horrible, debilitating disease, I believe in doing everything possible to avoid passing it down.

In my last column, I explained how sickle cell is inherited and why knowing your genotype is imperative. This is all important information if you are currently dating and seeking out an appropriate suitor to build a family with.

But what about those who are already married or in a committed relationship?

If you and your partner both have the sickle cell trait and don’t want to risk having babies with sickle cell, there are several avenues you can explore as a couple.

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You may consider not having children at all. I have always maintained that if I met the love of my life and discovered he had the sickle cell trait, this would be one of two options I’d consider. However, I am strongly opposed to having babies with sickle cell. I doubt that I’d permit myself to date someone with the trait; I’d rather remain single. I understand that others may not feel as strongly about this as I do, though. And I realize this is a very personal topic.

If like me, you’re indifferent about having your own biological children, you could also consider adoption. There are thousands of children around the world in need of a loving and caring home, and this is one way to steer clear of having babies with sickle cell.

Now, I should add that I’m not saying that children in the care system who have sickle cell should not be adopted. They are already alive and living with the disease, and they deserve loving homes. My concern is adding to the global number of sickle cell patients. My thoughts on this probably warrant a separate piece altogether.

If adoption is not for you, and you wish to have your own biological children, you could consider preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This technique involves creating embryos outside the body, testing them for a genetic disorder (in this case, sickle cell disease), and then implanting the healthy embryos into the womb. Your location may determine the accessibility and cost of PGD. But to be clear, when both partners carry a sickle cell gene, this is the only way to guarantee that your biological children are not born with sickle cell disease.

Whenever I talk to parents, especially those with multiple children, I realize how many children are surprises — blessings to their families, of course, but still unplanned. I’m certain that I also fall into this category, even though my parents will never admit that to me! But I highlight this to say that many people conceive without trying. If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait and do not wish to have sickle cell babies, it would be prudent to consider family planning services to mitigate this risk.

Remember, if both partners have sickle cell trait, there is a 25% chance of each baby having sickle cell disease. This risk increases when one partner has the disease.

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.




I applaud your frankness on this important subject. I don't have SCT or SCD, but I have taken care of individuals in hospitals with SCD. The pain and suffering some people with SCD experience over a life time can be physiological & psychologically debilitating. Having a family member with SCD can affect the whole family. Some individuals and families will not admit this, but SCD in this day & age is preventable. I don't want to sound negative, but sometimes, we have to face reality. This is an extremely hard subject for families to discuss. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

Mary Shaniqua avatar

Mary Shaniqua

Thank you for your comment Clora, I agree with you that though this is a difficult topic it is important that people make wise decisions and understand the very real implications of decisions made.


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