When I used to think of what I’d want to know about my future spouse before marriage, it was things like if he wanted kids, if we shared similar religious beliefs, if he was an alcoholic or drug addict, if he had a history of infidelity or if he had any sexually transmitted diseases. Many Nigerians would add another thing to the aforementioned incomplete list though: whether their potential spouse has the sickle cell trait; that is, if they are AS. The question “What’s your genotype?” is about as foreign to me as being asked “Baby, what’s your sign?”…well, it used to be. Now I have been asked twice by prospective beaus.
Sickle cell disease is serious and anyone wanting more information about this can consult:
- Sickle Cell Association of Ontario
- Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc.
- These Genes, Tosyn Bucknor’s project
- the wikipedia page for sickle cell disease
If you’d like to donate to this cause, you can support the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario by donating, or support the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc. Give what you can; even if it’s just your coffee money!
For those unfamiliar with how sickle cell disease transfer from parent to child works (and those in the know, especially the doctors among us, please correct me if I get any of this wrong), if you are AA, you do not have the sickle cell trait or disease; you are completely healthy (as regards sickle cell disease). If you are AS you have the trait, which means you are a carrier of sickle cell disease. You generally show no signs of the disease but may have or develop some conditions as a result (though generally not sickle cell disease). If you are SS you have sickle cell disease.
So, if you know you’re a carrier, to give yourself the lowest chance of having a child who is also a carrier or a child who has sickle cell disease, it’s ideal to match yourself with someone who is AA as that nearly guarantees you won’t have children who have sickle cell disease. If you and your spouse are AS, there’s about a 25% chance that your offspring could have sickle cell disease, a 25% chance that your child could be AA, and a 50% chance that your offspring could be a carrier like you.
As far as I can tell, these are only odds. It doesn’t mean that if two AS parents have four children, two of them will definitely be AS. You sometimes hear that despite the odds of having a child with a certain condition, some families have multiple children with the same “rare” or “uncommon” condition.
I think the older generation cares more about the answer to the question asked in the title of this entry. One example is the pastor of a friend of mine who told her to make sure she finds out the genotype of a guy she was getting to know before things get more serious. Among the younger set, some don’t know their genotype and aren’t in a rush to find out, and don’t care about the genotype their significant other. I currently don’t know my genotype (Update: now I know my genotype!), but I will be requesting that it be checked in the blood test following my annual physical exam next month, along with my blood type (which I’m embarrassed to confess I don’t know either). I know it won’t affect who I decide to be with, but my potential future partner may feel differently.
I have some questions for you:
- Does the genotype of your (future) spouse matter to you?
- Have you ever ended a relationship or decided not to enter into a relationship due to genotype?
- Have your parents or others tried to influence a budding relationship due to “incompatible” genotypes?