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Planning to have children now or in the future?

Your respective Thalassaemia statuses are something you and your partner should become aware of before starting a family. 

 
What Is Thalassaemia?

Thalassaemia is an inherited blood disorder caused by changes in the genes which affects the production of haemoglobin, the protein present in red blood cells which is responsible for oxygen transportation in the body. An individual with Thalassaemia is unable to produce normal, functioning haemoglobin, which results in anaemia – a deficiency of healthy red blood cells.


What Are The Different Forms Of Thalassaemia?

There are two main forms of Thalassaemia – Thalassaemia Minor and Thalassaemia Major. Individuals with Thalassaemia Minor, also known as Thalassaemia carriers (or carriers of Thalassaemia trait), are generally healthy and do not exhibit any symptoms or require any treatment. Meanwhile, individuals with Thalassaemia Major suffer from severe, life-threatening anaemia, usually resulting in poor growth and a shortened lifespan if left untreated. Treatment for Thalassaemia Major involves life-long regular blood transfusions to replenish the supply of healthy red blood cells in the body and iron chelation therapy to remove the excess iron generated by the eventual breakdown of the transfused red blood cells. 


Why Does It Matter If I Have Thalassaemia Minor?

  
When both partners in a couple have Thalassaemia Minor, there is a 25% chance that their future children may develop Thalassaemia Major and this chance remains consistent with each pregnancy.


How Do I Know If I Have Thalassaemia Minor?

Thalassaemia is the most common genetic blood disorder in Singapore, with about 1 in 20 Singaporeans estimated to have Thalassaemia Minor (according to the National Thalassaemia Registry). However, as of 2018, only 45,717 individuals have been registered, meaning that there may be over 200,000 Singaporeans who may not be aware that they are carriers of Thalassaemia trait. In fact, because Thalassaemia Minor typically does not result in any symptoms or require any treatment, most individuals with this form of the disorder are likely unaware of their status. The only way to know whether you have Thalassaemia Minor is by going for Thalassaemia screening.


What Is Thalassaemia Screening?

Based on the guidelines laid out by the Registry, couples who are planning to get married or start a family should go for Thalassaemia screening. Thalassaemia screening involves a simple blood test.


Where To Go For Thalassaemia Screening?

Thalassaemia screening is available at all local polyclinics. If the individual tests positive at the polyclinic, he or she will be referred to the Registry for a subsidised DNA confirmation test. Individuals with a family history of Thalassaemia may proceed directly to the Registry for the subsidised DNA test (the family member with Thalassaemia must provide records of his or her status for verification).

 

What Can I Do If I Know I Have Thalassaemia Minor?

Individuals who are diagnosed with Thalassaemia Minor may receive genetic counselling provided by the Registry, whereby they may be informed of their risks so as to make informed family planning decisions.


About The Campaign – Thala-SIMI-AH?

Thala-SIMI-AH? is a non-profit health communications campaign spearheaded by four final-year students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI). Thala-SIMI-AH? aims to raise awareness about Thalassaemia as the most common genetic blood disorder in Singapore and encourage couples who intend to start a family to go for Thalassaemia screening so that they may be able to make more informed family planning decisions. The campaign is conducted in partnership with KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and the National Thalassaemia Registry.

The Thala-SIMI-AH? team was motivated by the results of a survey they conducted of 201 Singaporeans aged 25 to 34 who are in a relationship and intend to have children, which revealed that 89.6% have not gone for Thalassaemia screening and are unaware of their Thalassaemia status while 71.6% have never even heard of Thalassaemia.

Running from now till early-March 2020, Thala-SIMI-AH? has put in place a series of 11 roadshows occurring every Friday to Sunday of February, starting from 7th February, at Chatuchak Night Market Singapore. Participants of these roadshows may find out more information about Thalassaemia through fun games and interactive activities, stand to win attractive prizes and, if eligible, they may also sign up for Thalassaemia screening (provided and arranged by KKH and the National Thalassaemia Registry).

More information about the campaign can be found here. To keep updated with the campaign, you may also follow them on Facebook & Instagram account @thalasimiahsg

This article is by https://thalasimiah.wixsite.com/singapore.

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