Sickle cell disease is usually detected during pregnancy or soon after birth.
Blood tests can also be carried out at any time to check for the condition or to see if you're a sickle cell carrier and are at risk of having a child with the condition.
Sickle cell screening during pregnancy
Screening to check if a baby's at risk of being born with sickle cell disease is offered to all pregnant women in England.
In parts of England where sickle cell disease is more common, pregnant women are offered a blood test to check if they carry sickle cell.
In areas where sickle cell disease is less common, a questionnaire about your family origins is used to work out whether you should have a blood test for sickle cell.
You can also ask to have the blood test even if your family origins do not suggest your baby would be at high risk of sickle cell disease.
Screening should ideally be carried out before you're 10 weeks pregnant so you and your partner have time to consider the option of further tests to find out if your baby will be born with sickle cell disease.
Newborn screening for sickle cell disease
In England screening for sickle cell disease is offered as part of the newborn blood spot test (heel prick test).
This can help to:
- indicate whether your baby has sickle cell disease if pregnancy screening suggested they were at high risk but you decided not to have tests to confirm the diagnosis at the time
- identify any babies with sickle cell disease whose parents were not screened during pregnancy
- show if your baby has the sickle cell trait
- pick up certain other inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis
If newborn screening suggests your baby may have sickle cell disease, a second blood test will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis.
Testing for sickle cell carriers
A blood test can be done at any time to find out if you carry sickle cell and are at risk of having a child with sickle cell disease.
This is also known as having the sickle cell trait.
Getting tested can be particularly useful if you have a family history of sickle cell disease or your partner is known to carry the sickle cell trait.
If you think you could be a carrier, ask for a test from your GP surgery or nearest sickle cell and thalassaemia centre.
Both men and women can have the test.