Thalassaemia in Pregnancy
What exactly is thalassaemia?
This is a group of genetic conditions where there is a defect which leads to reduced haemoglobin in the red blood-cells. Haemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying component of the cells and therefore the direct consequence is anaemia (low haemoglobin).
Who is at risk?
Thalassaemia conditions are found among people from all parts of the world. There are areas where it is more common than others. Being a genetic condition means one either has it at birth or not. It cannot be acquired in any way later in life.
Can't it be acquired through blood transfusion?
Definitely not. Nor can it be acquired any other way. Genetic conditions are passed from parents to children. If a child is born without a particular condition in this case thalassaemia - there is no way he or she will get it later on in life.
You have talked of "thalassaemia" as a group of conditions. How many types are there?
Actually, there are only two main types of thalassaemia, which are further subdivided into sub-groups. This is on the basis of the complexity of the genetic defect. We shall concentrate on the two main groups.
Beta Thalassaemia and Pregnancy
What are the two main groups of thalassaemia?
The first is called beta-thalassaemia (ß-thalassaemia). The highest concentration of beta-thalassaemia is the Mediterranean region. The name comes from the Greek word "thalassa", which means "sea". This is because the condition was first found among children of Greek (and Italian) migrants.
How common is beta-thalassaemia in general and in pregnancy?
As mentioned above, the highest concentration of carriers is in the Mediterranean and, to some extent, the Middle East. In Cyprus, for instance, the carrier rate is high, at one in seven (1:7). Compare this to the UK, where carrier rates are almost 1500 times lower at one in ten thousand (1:10,000).