In recent times a handful of religious institutions advocate for series of tests for couples planning to get married. But for most people, the joy of finding true love and deciding to go into matrimony with a spouse usually knows no bound.
TUNDE OGUNTOLA in this piece writes on the dangers attached to this lifelong union without adequate knowledge of their partner’s health status and so become disappointed and frustrated with marriage.
Most of us tend to overlook the health aspect of a marriage, forgetting that it is one of the most integral parts of a happy relationship.
The knowledge of your intending partner’s health status by no means implies that marriage is not possible but it gives you an avenue to make informed consent and it enables you and your spouse seek proper medical care early to prevent unnecessary stress and burden during marriage.
Here are medical tests you should do before you get married:
Tests for genetically transmitted conditions:
These are tests that are important to know if you or your partner is carrying any genes that could manifest as a disease in your children. This includes conditions like thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder where a baby cannot produce enough red blood cells and will need a blood transfusion very often), cancers, juvenile diabetes, mental disorders, etc.
Usually a test for dominant genetic makers requires only a small blood sample.
Test for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases(STDs)
There might be certain stigma attached to this test, but with the current prevalence of HIV and other STDs, it is important that spouses should request for their partners to be screened for these diseases before marriage. HIV, hepatitis B and C are lifelong conditions that if not properly managed can put serious strain on the marriage. The knowledge of your partner status helps you protect yourself/ seek for adequate medical care if your partner turns out to be positive and you also decide to go ahead with the marriage. Lifelong care and support is needed for partners who are infected. Other STDs e.g. gonorrhea, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis and warts can be treated with proper medical care. This reduces the risk of infertility and miscarriages during marriage.
Test for blood group:
Knowledge of your spouse blood group is important before marriage because of rhesus isoimmunization/ blood group incompatibility that affects the fetus. This test is easy to perform and result is usually ready within 30 minutes. Blood group is assigned to an individual as A, B, O and AB with another component known as the Rhesus factor which is referred to as positive or negative. Women with rhesus negative blood group married to rhesus positive husbands have a greater chance of rhesus incompatibility where the mother produces antibodies (body defence system) to target the red blood cells of the growing fetus (rhesus positive fetus) leading to intrauterine death and miscarriages. Knowledge of your spouse blood group will alert your doctor to institute preventive measures which are used to prevent rhesus incompatibility reactions during pregnancy.
Test for sickle cell gene:
Sickle cell disease is a chronic and debilitating medical condition caused by defect in red blood cells. As the name implies, these cells are shaped as a ‘sickle’ and this affect their ability to pass through tiny blood vessels to supply oxygen to cells and tissue. This account for most crises experienced by sickle cell patients. It is advisable for sickle cell patients (SS) not to marry a carrier of the sickle cell gene (AS) because of the 50% chance of having a baby with the disease in each pregnancy. However, a sickle cell patient (SS) can marry an individual with no trait of the disease (AA) as their offspring will only be carriers of the sickle cell genes.
Some people believe that doing this test can cause more harm than good, the truth is fertility test is another test that all intending coupes should do before saying ‘I DO’. This is important because fertility issues can be addressed as early as possible without the unnecessary biological, psychological, social and emotional trauma associated with barrenness.
Testing for possible genetic /chronic medical conditions:
Marriage is a lifelong commitment with both partners looking after each another. Knowledge of possible genetic or chronic conditions of your partner wouldn’t be harmful but it will go a long way in assisting both couples on how to best prepare for the challenges ahead. Early testing allows couples seek medical care before the medical conditions gets to its terminal stage. This test depends on the region and the common chronic/genetic condition seen in that populace. However, this test should include screening for diabetes, test for hypertension, certain cancers kidney disease and test for thalassemia.