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Importance of Pre-Martial Health Screening


Shoes – check.
2nd fitting of gown – check.
Bridesmaids tailored outfits – check.

With only 3 months to go before the big day, you tick off the items on your checklist and seem to have gotten everything down to the smallest detail. As much as wedding preparations take time and effort, so does marriage preparation; essentially, ascertaining your marital health as a couple.

Most of us are not fully aware of our state of health. Even if you or your partner have never had any health problems in the past, you may be a silent carrier of infectious or hereditary disease, which, if expressed, could affect your children once you choose to conceive.

Pre-marital screening consists of a group of tests meant for couples considering marriage or starting a new family together. These tests serve to detect potential health problems, particularly chronic infectious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and hereditary disorders, which may affect your future children. Pre-marital screening offers you the peace of mind you deserve for you and your future children’s health.

It takes two. Photo by Let There Be Light. Wedding of Melissa and Andy.

The 3 main reasons on why pre-martial screening is important is elaborated here:

    Pre-marital screening enables you to firstly assess your general health status and rule out carrier status of genetic disorders. It enables you to identify hereditary conditions that may affect your future children e.g. Thalassaemia; a common and also easily detectable hereditary blood disorder. Carriers of Thalassaemia usually do not exhibit any symptoms. However, when both you and your partner are carriers, there is a chance that your children may inherit a particularly severe form of the disease which requires lifelong blood transfusion. Early detection of the disease and genetic counselling may enable you to make a decision if you should go ahead with the marriage or pregnancy.

    Pre-marital screening also helps rule out carrier status of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases like the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). Although the modes of transmission for HBV are the same for HIV, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that HBV is 50 - 100 times more infectious. HBV can be passed from mother to baby during birth. Therefore, it is imperative to safeguard yourself from these potentially life-threatening diseases with simple screening.

    Engaging in pre-marital screening also helps detect viral infections like Rubella (German measles) and Varicella (Chickenpox). Both Rubella and Varicella are highly contagious viral infections, with transmissions through air or by direct contact, which can turn serious when the infection occurs in pregnant women, especially in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The results of the pre-marital screening will enable the couple to make an informed decision to consider vaccination before conception.

In a pre-marital screening, a complete medical history will be taken to assess pre-existing medical conditions and family history of hereditary diseases or abnormal children. A physical examination is then done.

Glossary of Essential Pre-Marital Health Screening Tests

To detect for acute and chronic hepatitis B infection)
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It is a major global health problem and the most serious type of viral hepatitis. It can cause chronic liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person - not through casual contact.

To detect and diagnose HIV infection
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, leading to "immune deficiency." Early treatment of HIV infection and immune system monitoring can greatly improve long-term health. Also, knowing your HIV status may help you change behaviour that would put you and others at risk.

To screen for and diagnose infection by the Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated. The syphilis bacterium can also infect the baby of a woman during her pregnancy.

To detect and screen for Varicella
Varicella (Chickenpox) is an acute, highly contagious disease transmitted via droplets, aerosol or direct contact and causes an itchy rash. If a woman develops chickenpox at any point during pregnancy, she is at risk of potentially serious complications.

To detect and screen for Rubella
Rubella, also known as German measles, is a highly infectious viral infection transmitted by the respiratory route. Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is an important cause of severe birth defects. When a woman is infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy, she has a 90% chance of passing the virus on to her foetus.

To determine if red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are normal in appearance and number
To help diagnose a range of deficiencies, diseases, and disorders involving blood cell production, function and destruction, such as anaemia, thalassaemia and leukaemia.

To detect and screen for Thalassaemia
Thalassaemias are genetic disorders that cause decreased and defective production of haemoglobin, a molecule found inside all red blood cells (RBCs) that transports oxygen throughout the body.

Article contributed by Dr Tan May Ling, Senior Resident Physician. Tan Tock Seng Medical Centre.

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Keywords: Bride, Bride and Groom, Getting Ready, Groom, Wedding Planning

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