By Dr Joe Kabyemela, MD
These conditions are collectively called haemoglobinopathies. This is because the problem is with the oxygen-carrying blood pigment called haemoglobin. The haemoglobin produced in these conditions is defective, which leads to chronic conditions characterized by anaemia and other health problems to varying degrees, depending on the severity of the defect. These are genetic conditions and therefore are of special interest where pregnancy is concerned. The parents will want to know the prospects for their child, as far as the condition is concerned. For some, at least, there is also a serious question of whether they can safely embark on a pregnancy.
Haemoglobinopathies are serious conditions, the control of which has improved a lot over the last few decades. They are complex syndromes with a number of sub-types. It is important that a prospective mother with any of these is treated during her pregnancy at a centre where there is the necessary expertise and experience..
There is ethnic preponderance for each of these conditions. Beta-thalassaemia is found mostly in people of Mediterranean origin. It follows therefore that in those areas where you don't find many migrants from that part of the world, the doctors will inevitably lack the experience of dealing with the problems associated with this condition.