Sickle Cell Disease - So Your Baby Has the Sickle Cell Trait

What is sickle cell trait?
To have sickle cell trait means one carries a gene for sickle cell anemia which can be passed along to their children. As a carrier of this gene, your baby has red blood cells that contain some sickle hemoglobin, but far less than the person with sickle cell anemia. (Hemoglobin is in red blood cells and carries oxygen to your body. Sickle hemoglobin is an abnormal type of hemoglobin.)

In most cases people with sickle cell trait lead completely normal lives. It is important that your doctor knows your baby has sickle cell trait.

How did my baby get sickle cell trait?
Getting sickle cell trait is like getting the color of your eyes; it is inherited from parents. Your baby inherited a normal hemoglobin gene from one parent and an "S" or sickle gene from the other parent.

Will my baby have sickle cell anemia?
NO! Sickle cell trait will not turn into sickle cell anemia.

Will my baby become anemic from having sickle cell trait?
Usually a person with sickle cell trait does not become anemic and will lead a healthy and normal life and requires no treatment.

How long will my baby have the trait?
Just as your baby will have the same color eyes, skin, and hair, they will always have sickle cell trait.

Is sickle cell trait contagious?
NO! Sickle cell trait is not contagious. You cannot catch sickle cell trait like measles or a cold. Sickle cell trait is inherited from parents.

Will I have a baby with sickle cell anemia?
No one will know until you get tested. The fact that your baby has the trait tells us that at least one of the parents has the trait (either mother or father). If only one parent has the sickle cell trait, then they CANNOT have a baby with sickle cell anemia. If both parents have sickle cell trait then each baby has a 25% (or one in four) chance of having sickle cell anemia.

Should parents be tested for sickle cell?
YES! Now that you know your baby has sickle cell trait it is important that both parents and all other children be tested.

It is recommended that the blood test be repeated at about four months of age to confirm that your baby does have sickle cell trait. Blood from the baby, parents, and siblings may be sent by the doctor or clinic to the Health Department laboratory at that time.

Why was my baby tested for sickle cell anemia?

SICKLE CELL TRAIT is found in about one of every ten black Americans. It is also found in Mexican Americans and white Americans, especially those whose families originally came from Turkey, Italy, Greece, Spain, and other Latin American or Mediterranean countries.

On November 1, 1983, the Texas Department of State Health Services, Newborn Screening Laboratory began screening all babies born in Texas for sickle hemoglobin, as a part of the newborn screening testing.