Screening for sickle cell and beta thalassaemia

Interview 02

Female
Age at interview: 22

Brief outline: Discovered she was a beta thalassaemia carrier from routine screening during pregnancy. She was not aware she was being tested. Partner was tested and is not a carrier.

Background: Married, full-time mother, in first pregnancy. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

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This mother was not really aware that one of the blood tests she had during pregnancy was screening for beta thalassaemia, so she was shocked to receive a letter saying she was a carrier. She then discovered that her mother was also a carrier, but had not realised it was important for her daughter to know this. Her mother's father came from the Greek Cypriot community.

She felt she was not very well informed by her midwives, but her specialist sickle cell counsellor explained everything very clearly. Her partner was also tested, and it was an anxious time waiting for the results, but they were relieved when the counsellor rang to say he was not a carrier. 

Even if her partner had been a carrier, she felt she would have continued with the pregnancy anyway. However, she is glad to have found out, and believes screening is important. She feels it is important for people to be more aware of these conditions, and to know that they can affect white people too. 

Although being a beta thalassaemia carrier does not mean she has the condition, she has been advised that some women who are beta thalassaemia carriers may be mildly anaemic. Doctors and midwives caring for a woman during pregnancy need to know this, so they can manage her iron levels appropriately and not give her unnecessary iron medicines. Beta thalassaemia carriers need a special blood test to check their iron levels during pregnancy.

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