How to Prevent Inheritance of Sickle Cell Disease

Living with sickle cell disease is not an easy task. At 32, I still struggle to understand my body and live as freely as I would like. Because it is in our power to prevent children from experiencing this horrible, debilitating disease, I believe that everything should be done to avoid passing it on.

In my last column, I explained how sickle cell disease is inherited and why knowing your genotype is imperative. This is all important information if you are currently in a relationship and looking for a suitable suitor to start a family with.

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

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

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You may consider not having children at all. I’ve always maintained that if I met the love of my life and found out he had the sickle cell trait, that would be one of two options I would consider. However, I am strongly opposed to having babies with sickle cell disease. I doubt I would allow myself to date someone with the trait; I prefer to stay single. I understand that others may not feel this as strongly as I do, however. And I realize that this is a very personal subject.

If like me, you are indifferent to having your own biological children, you can also consider adoption. There are thousands of children around the world who need a loving, caring home, and that’s one way to avoid having babies with sickle cell disease.

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

If adoption is not for you and you wish to have your own biological children, you might consider preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This technique involves creating embryos outside the body, testing them for a genetic disease (in this case, sickle cell disease), and then implanting the healthy embryos into the uterus. Your location can determine the accessibility and cost of DPI. But to be clear, when both partners carry a sickle cell gene, it’s the only way to guarantee that your biological children aren’t 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 always unforeseen. I am certain that I also belong to this category, even if my parents will never admit it to me! But I emphasize 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 babies with sickle cell disease, it would be prudent to consider family planning services to mitigate this risk.

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

To note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a disease news and information site. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of anything you read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to spark discussion about sickle cell issues.

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