It has always been a good advice and the norm to find out more about an intended spouse before tying the knot. Unfortunately, in our setting, it is not considered important and so most people are not bothered to make any inquiries. Thankfully however, some religious institutions now require that the to-be couple undergo some basic lab tests before they tie the knot.
The consequences of overlooking such an important fact are sometimes unforgiving and can be dire because some of these health conditions can directly be passed on to you or affect the quality of the marriage and the family. Much of the inquiry is not necessarily to cancel the marriage but rather to help prevent unnecessary disappointment and regret because some of these conditions can be easily treated or managed to get the best out of life.
Not knowing this has the risk of giving birth to children who have sickle cell disease (SCDx). Couples who have the sickle cell trait (AS) have a 1 in 4 chance of having a child with the disease (don’t be fooled by the probability, I know a couple who’s 2 children both have the disease). This probability increases if one partner has sickle cell disease and further still if both have the disease.
Sickle cell disease is characterized by frequent illness that often requires hospital admissions and severe pain that can take the joy out of the family life and put massive stress on finances and the marriage. I know of mothers who have had to give up their livelihood to take care of their sickle cell children. In the past, it was associated with a shorter life span but improved healthcare, focused care and awareness they can live as long as anyone.
In developed healthcare systems in certain parts of the world, the carrier couple can have the developing foetus tested for the disease or other genetic abnormalities and opt for termination. It is important to note that just a negative sickling test is not enough, you need to know the actual genotype (AA, AS or AC). This is because AC will also show negative on a sickling test but can give birth to children who are SC which are similar to SS.
So basically, you want to avoid marrying someone who is also AS, SS or AC if you have genotype AS, SS, or AC. If you are genotype AA that’s great, you don’t have to worry about it.
Again this is not an absolute reason not to go ahead with your marriage, in healthcare today, having HIV does not necessarily mean it can be passed on to others, neither is it a death sentence, there are couples who have HIV but have children who are negative and there are those that one spouse is positive but the children and the other spouse are not.
The key here is knowing about the disease and getting treatment. With treatment the virus can be suppressed to the point where it cannot be transmitted to a sexual partner or babies
Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C
These are also sexually transmitted diseases. Syphilis on the other hand can be treated easily thus preventing it’s serious long term complications. Hepatitis B can be in the body in different states so a positive test requires further tests to determine whether it can be passed on to others and whether it needs treatment or not.
Knowing whether an intended spouse has a chronic disease such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, asthma etc will help plan the family life and also help live healthier lives, for example encouraging the other to take medication, go for reviews, considering partner’s condition when cooking, keeping strong smells out of the house when your spouse is asthmatic etc.
In Ghana unlike in the developed world, having children is such a big deal but fertility testing prior to marriage is not commonly done. However, a couple can decide to do fertility tests before they tie the knot. The advantage here is that certain treatable conditions can be dealt with early enough to prevent the situation where the couple have to deal with relatives later. Such fertility tests may include semen analysis, hormonal levels, pelvic scan etc.
These and many more will be discussed when you see your doctor, you can call to book your appointment with mydoctorpal.