Conversations have flowed over the years with my female friends and family about having the Sickle Cell (SC) trait. Many women generally know if they have it but sadly, many men don’t know whether they have it or not. Women generally find out because their blood is tested during pregnancy or because their blood has been tested for other issues during their lifetime. As mothers and carriers of the Sickle Cell trait, we need to inform our sons too — not just our daughters.
Even if no one in your family has Sickle Cell Disease (SCD); we must inform our children that SC trait carriers who mate with other carriers produce babies with the disease. Doctors say there is a 50/50 chance per pregnancy that the child may or may not receive the disease but why gamble? Knowledge is power and if every trait-carrying man could avoid mating with another carrier then that would be one less child without SCD. This may take years of repeating to your son(s) but it could be worth a whole life time without pain for some future child they’d bare.
In speaking with 20 SCD trait-carrying women, whom all have sons, none of them even thought about telling their son he carries the trait too. Majority of their responses focused around not thinking it was important information for these reasons:
- None of my children have SCD
- It didn’t seem important because the trait doesn’t affect his health
- None of my family members have SCD
- Never crossed my mind to share that with him
- I don’t know why, I just haven’t told him
In speaking with 20 men, only one man knew he had the trait and that was only because he donated a kidney to his mom. That man was my ex-husband and he found out when I was already 7 months pregnant. I didn’t think to ask him prior to conceiving but if he had the knowledge he may have thought to ask me. The other men did not know whether they had the trait or not and have not produced any offspring yet. And 3 of those men said they would ask their mom to see if she had the trait.
It only takes one parent to pass the defective gene. Mothers most likely would be the first to know if the child is a SC trait carrier because generally moms are the caregivers of children. Mothers also hold the most information about a child’s medical history from birth because at birth genetic testing tells them what defective traits their child carries. So tell your son what he needs to know! Because informing your sons about the importance of knowing if they have the SC trait is the first step to planning a healthy family.
It is our responsibility as parents. It is our responsibility as mothers. We can stop sickle cell from being passed to the next generation, but only if we educate our kids.