He Gets It from Your Side of the Family

Do you know your spouse’s medical history? Some states require that you take a blood test before obtaining a marriage license. Why? Partly to check for venereal and other STDs, but also to check for potential genetic diseases that could be passed on to children. This practice is on the way out, however, due to advances in medical science.

Still, even with vaccinations and treatments for many of these diseases, there are some benefits to knowing your spouse’s medical history. Is there a prevalence of alcoholism or addiction in their family? Are there psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia in their family tree? Have they been treated for psychiatric problems themselves?

Certain diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are directly linked to genetics. Behavioral disorders, such as anxiety, schizophrenia, manic depression and alcoholism, also have genetic links. Even cancer, diabetes and heart disease are impacted by genetics. With this in mind, checking your predispositions before marriage, or especially before having kids, seems like a good idea.

Many genetic diseases are recessive, so they are not manifested in the parents. However, when two parents with the recessive traits get together, there is a one in four chance that the disease will manifest in the child. Certain ethnicities are prone to these diseases, such as sickle cell anemia in African Americans and Tay-Sachs disease among those of Jewish descent.

In addition to potential health threats for your children, you should consider late onset and hereditary conditions that might affect your spouse later in life. You can prepare better if you know your spouse has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, or if they have been prone to depression in the past. If your spouse has a family history of alcoholism, you can watch for warning signs and be more cautious of potential pitfalls. Furthermore, understanding your spouse’s medical history will help you to better understand the complexities of their personality.

Above all, current and ongoing serious medical conditions should not be kept secret from your spouse. If you are going through something, your spouse needs to know so they can support you emotionally and financially. Keeping a diagnosis hidden will drive a spike between the two of you. Keep in mind your medical records are private, so not even your spouse can access them without your consent. Past health issues may not be pertinent to the present, but they may indicate a higher possibility of a condition later in life. When finding the balance between secrecy and truth was it applies to your medical history, it is better to err on the side of honesty.

Additional Resources

Livestrong A Marriage License & Blood Tests: http://www.livestrong.com/article/215971-a-marriage-license-blood-tests/

U.S. Marriage Laws: http://usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/blood_test_requirements/index.shtml

Aish a Jewish Perspective on Issues Related to Screening for Tay-Sachs Disease: http://www.aish.com/ci/s/48909807.html

Genetics and Health -Common Genetically Inherited Diseases: http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2972/Genetics-Health-COMMON-GENETICALLY-INHERITED-DISEASES.html

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