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Screening for sickle cell and beta thalassaemia


Sickle cell and beta thalassaemia are inherited recessive conditions. ‘Recessive’ means a person can only inherit the condition if both parents are carriers. Each child born to a couple who are both carriers has a 1 in 4 risk of having the condition and a 1 in 2 risk of being a carrier. If only one parent is a carrier, their children cannot inherit the condition itself, but they still have a 1 in 2 chance of inheriting carrier status. Being a carrier will not affect the child’s health.

If a woman discovers during pregnancy that she is a sickle cell or beta thalassaemia carrier, she will usually be advised to tell her partner and suggest he also has a screening test for sickle cell, thalassaemia and other variations (such as haemoglobin C, E, D or O Arab). For many couples, the test will show the male partner is not a carrier, and their baby will not inherit the condition.