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Will I Pass Sickle Cell Disease on to My Children?

Sickle cell disease runs in my family. I don't have it, but my friend told me I can still pass it on to my children. Is this true? I don't have kids yet, but I want to be a mom someday.

If you have sickle cell disease in your family, your children might be born with it — but they also might not. It all depends on the mix of that your kids inherit from you and their father.

Sickle cell disease is — it's passed down from parents to children. Like you, lots of people don't have the disease, but they can have the sickle cell gene in their bodies. When someone has the gene but not the disease, it's known as sickle cell trait.

Your doctor's office can do an easy blood test to find out if you have sickle cell trait. If the test shows you have the gene in your body, it means that you could pass it on to your children.

Of course, children inherit genes from both parents. So your kids' dad will play a role in sickle cell disease:

  • If one parent has sickle cell trait and the other does not, children inherit the gene from the parent who has it and pass it on to their own kids.
  • When both parents have sickle cell trait, their child might be born with sickle cell disease. If one parent has sickle cell trait and the other has a similar gene (like beta thalassemia), it's also possible their kids might get sickle cell disease.
  • If one parent has the trait and the other parent has the disease, it's quite likely their child will have sickle cell disease — in this situation, about half of all babies are born with the disease.
  • When both parents have sickle cell disease, it's very likely their child will too.

Some other blood disorders are similar to sickle cell disease, like hemoglobin S-C, C, and E, and thalassemias. When a parent has one of these, it also can affect a child's chances of being born with sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.

Date reviewed: September 2015