Parents who both carry a sickle cell gene are more likely to have a baby with sickle cell disease (SCD), a disorder marked by abnormally shaped red blood cells that may cause everything from anemia to chronic pain to infection. The disease can impact a child throughout life, but it can be effectively managed.
A Family Affair
Babies who inherit the sickle cell gene from one or both parents are at a greater risk for developing SCD or carrying the sickle cell trait (SCT) that may cause it.
- When both a mom and dad have the gene, there is a 25 percent chance the baby will have SCD.
- When just one parent has the gene, there is a 50 percent chance the child will carry the SCT.
The Importance of Early Testing
Many people who carry the SCT are unaware they have the gene. As a result, some new parents may be surprised to have a baby experiencing symptoms of a disease they do not know much about. A genetic counselor can help parents determine if and how SCD or SCT may impact their family and offer advice about raising a healthy baby.
What Sickle Cell Means for Moms
Women with SCT or SCD can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, but it is critical to stay in close contact with a doctor. Some women who have SCD may experience frequent and severe pain as a result of the disease. Additionally, women with SCD are at a greater risk of miscarriage or premature birth.
However, thanks to increased awareness of the disease and how it impacts pregnant women, outcomes for mothers and babies with SCD have improved during the past several years.
Hope for the Future
While there is no easy cure for sickle cell disease, many treatments and procedures — such as anti-inflammatory drugs, bone marrow transplants and gene therapy — can help manage pain, prevent infection and improve general quality of life.