Black History Month & Sickle Cell Anemia

Although September is recognized as Sickle Cell Awareness Month; MFM shines light upon Sickle Cell Anemia (specifically the sickle cell trait) in recognition of Black History Month.  Sickle cell trait is an inherited blood disorder that affects between 90,000 – 100,000 Americans and approximately 8-10 percent of African Americans. About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with the sickle cell trait. Sickle cell trait can also affect Hispanics, South Asians, Caucasians from southern Europe, and people from Middle Eastern countries. More than 100 million people worldwide have sickle cell trait.

Unlike sickle cell disease, in which patients have two genes that cause the production of abnormal hemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen), individuals with sickle cell trait carry only one defective gene and typically live normal lives without health problems related to sickle cell. Sickle cell trait is not a disease; it means that he or she carries or has inherited a single copy of the gene that causes sickle cell disease.

It is very important for couples desiring to have children to make sure they ask each other important health questions; including, but not limited to, do you have sickle cell or the sickle cell trait? For me this is a personal testimony, as I was already married and did not ask my spouse any health questions.  I was pregnant when our doctor asked my husband and I did we have any form of sickle cell.  I vaguely remembered as a little girl my mother telling me I had sickle cell trait but I never understood what it meant until I became pregnant. I never asked my husband if he had any form of sickle cell nor did I tell him I had the trait.  If my husband and I both had sickle cell trait, it was possible that our child would have sickle cell. Upon testing, he did not have any form of sickle cell.

Sickle cell anemia symptoms can begin by four months of age; early diagnosis is critical.  All newborns in the United States are now tested for the disease.

It is important for you to talk to your doctor, especially if you believe you may have sickle cell anemia.  If you carry the sickle cell trait, make sure you tell your doctor before getting pregnant as well.

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