“Don’t Be A Scrub”: Know Your Sickle Cell Status
Hey ladies and scrubs! It’s the month of Love. Speaking of love, do you guys remember when TLC so famously said “A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me”? Well, what T-Boz really meant was that guys who don’t know their sickle cell status, a.k.a. scrubs, are gonna need to go get checked before getting any love from her since she herself has sickle cell disease.
What is sickle cell? Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of blood disorders that are hereditary, where the red blood cells become sticky and sickled, which causes them to die early and become stuck in small blood vessels, causing different problems. It turns out, sickle cell disease occurs at a higher rate in African Americans (1 out of every 365 people), and about 1 in 10 African Americans have sickle cell trait, which is when you only have one copy of the abnormal gene. Two copies of the mutated gene leads to SCD- those with sickle cell trait have no symptoms, but they can pass on that gene to their children, and if two people with sickle cell trait have a baby, there is a 1 in 4 chance that baby will have SCD. A 25% chance!
Have you been thinking about getting pregnant in the near or distant future? Do you know your sickle cell status- do you have the trait? If not, you should ideally get screened for sickle cell trait before you become pregnant. If you do carry the trait, your partner should be screened as well to know their status. If they don’t carry the trait, your baby may be a carrier but will not have SCD. If you both have the trait, there's that 25% chance of the baby having it, and talking to a genetic counselor may be a good idea.
In this case, you could have the baby tested (through an amniocentesis or CVS) while you are pregnant to know if they have SCD. If you’re not pregnant yet, you could think about IVF + preimplantation genetic testing to decrease the risk of a baby with SCD. Either way, this is an important conversation to have with your obstetrician and genetic counselor to make the decision that is best for you and your family.
Also, if you’re a carrier, your family members may be too. Think about talking to them about their risk and having them get tested as well. Carrier screens are so important for a multitude of diseases when you’re thinking about having a baby, but this one gets a special spotlight today for it’s high incidence in the African American community. Know your status. Don’t be a scrub. Get that love.