Marriage is a journey that many eagerly embark upon, but one that should not be taken lightly. Along with the excitement of planning a life together, couples are now recognizing the importance of comprehensive medical testing before they say, “I do.”
These pre-marital medical assessments not only ensure a healthy start to their union but also help them prepare for the responsibilities of building a family.
According to Dr Andrew Marvin Kanyike, a medical doctor and Research Associate at Mengo Hospital, it is important for couples to check for HIV status.
“Couples may encounter different scenarios. Some couples are fortunate to test negative together ensuring peace of mind. However, there are cases of discordant couples, where one partner tests positive while the other is negative.
In such situations, there are options available to maintain a healthy relationship. Couples can opt for services like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) allowing them to continue their relationship safely. This preventive measure becomes crucial, especially when the couple decides to conceive,” he explains.
He adds that by embracing protected sex, couples can navigate this situation empathetically ensuring both partners’ well-being.
Sickle cell testing
Dr Kanyike also recommends sickle cell testing to ensure that neither of the partners is a carrier of the disease because when both parents are carriers, it means they each have one abnormal gene significantly increasing the chances of having a child with sickle cell disease.
“However, if one of the partners is a carrier and the other is not, they may have some children who are carriers but not affected by the disease. If both partners are carriers of a severe condition like sickle cell disease, it’s strongly advised not to proceed with marriage. Despite the deep love between them, this situation presents no viable solution,” he advises.
Blood group testing
He further reveals that there is a need to perform blood group testing. “When the results come back, they are usually denoted by a plus or minus sign, which we refer to as the Rh factor. This Rh factor is like a marker found in the blood. It’s important to know your blood group and Rh factor because it can have implications, especially for pregnant women,” he explains.
“If a woman is Rh-negative and her partner is Rh-positive, it’s possible that their child may have a blood group that is Rh-positive. During pregnancy, there can be complications related to Rh incompatibility.
When an Rh-negative mother gives birth to an Rh-positive child; there is a risk of the mother’s immune system developing antibodies against the baby’s blood, which can lead to health issues in subsequent pregnancies. To prevent this, we administer certain drugs to Rh-negative pregnant women to avoid such complications,” adds Dr Kanyike.
With advancements in science and improvements in living standards, Dr Kanyike says couples must steer clear of avoidable issues, particularly those that could result in significant financial strain or affect their health.
“Conditions like cancer and HIV, while manageable, come with their challenges impacting one’s psychological well-being and overall quality of life. By being proactive and avoiding these issues, couples can enhance their quality of life, both mentally and financially.
This proactive approach not only promotes a peaceful marriage without complications but also saves them from unnecessary expenses and healthcare costs. Being aware beforehand can prevent these challenges, ensuring a better quality of life and peace of mind,” he advises.
A delicate emotional terrain
Ssemakula Moses, a counsellor notes that couples undergoing pre-marital medical tests often find themselves navigating a delicate emotional terrain, burdened by the stress of anticipating outcomes.
“The weight of uncertainty challenges their communication, requiring honesty and vulnerability. In these trials, couples experience the raw realities of their relationship, showcasing the complexities of love, resilience, and commitment in the face of uncertainty,” he says.
According to Ssemakula, it is important for couples to undergo mental health tests before marriage.
“Couples undergoing pre-marital mental health assessments confront the necessity of unearthing hidden behaviours that may otherwise remain concealed during cohabitation.
In an era where appearances can often mask underlying struggles, these assessments become a vital tool, offering couples an opportunity to understand the depths of their partner’s mental health and fostering open conversations that are essential for a resilient relationship,” says Ssemakula.
Preparing for test results
He advises couples to be prepared for both positive and negative results saying it is important to approach the tests with an open mind and be ready for any outcome.
“Positive results can bring relief and reassurance, while negative results might require additional discussions and planning. Being emotionally prepared for any result can help couples support each other through the process and make informed decisions together.”
Fertility tests, he says are valuable tools for couples as they provide insights into their ability to conceive.
“These tests help determine the factors that might affect their chances of having children. By undergoing fertility tests, couples can gain a better understanding of their reproductive health and make informed decisions. It allows them to explore options and seek necessary medical assistance if needed, ensuring they are well-prepared for their journey towards parenthood,” he explains.
Passing on hereditary disorders
In addition, Ssemakula highlights the importance of knowing the genetic medical history of both partners since it involves understanding the health conditions, diseases and genetic traits present in each family.
“This information can help assess the risk of passing on hereditary disorders to their children. By sharing and understanding their genetic medical history, couples can make informed decisions about family planning. It allows them to consider genetic counselling or testing if there are concerns, ensuring the well-being of future generations and making proactive choices to promote healthy family life,”
Support each other
He urges couples facing potential health concerns revealed through medical tests to support each other by embracing active listening, empathy, and open communication.
“By educating themselves together, respecting each other’s coping strategies, and sharing responsibilities, they strengthen their bond. Accompanying each other to appointments and encouraging self-care are tangible expressions of support.
In times of overwhelming stress, seeking professional guidance provides tailored coping strategies. Together, couples can navigate these challenges, fostering resilience and unity in their relationship.”