It is not surprising to us to see a lot of girls/women married off to a near or a far-off relative in culturally bound and close-knit countries. Unlike our western counterparts, this practice of being wedded “within the family” is a norm and totally acceptable. Such marriages are termed as consanguineous marriages. A study claims that such marriages constitute 20-50% of all marriages in South India, North Africa, Middle East and West Asia and globally around 1 billion people are in such marriages!
Then why is a consanguineous marriage scary?
Any marriage that occurs between blood relatives, second cousin or closer (rare cases third) is defined as a consanguineous marriage. It is scary as it carries a high risk of potential threat to the pregnancy and the unborn baby. Not to mention having a lot of genetic/hereditary disorder which are predominantly autosomal recessive in nature. The closer the relationship between the married couple the greater the detrimental gene disorder in the offspring.
What are the difficulties faced during pregnancy?
An expectant mother may face adversities during her pregnancy, the most common that are seen are:
What are the disorders that the newborn can suffer from in such marriages?
Early vision &/or hearing impairment
Developmental delay (reaching milestones)
Failure to thrive
Haemoglobinopathies or (inherited) blood disorder
Neonatal/infant death in offspring unexpectantly
A severe condition of un-diagnosed nature
What can be done about this?
- Consult your doctor and gain as much information on consanguineous marriage as possible.
- If you are in a consanguineous marriage, preconception counseling would help you gain insight on the issues faced.
- Genetic counseling and gene-pool profiling may be beneficial in tracing out any hidden underlying familial diseases.
- Regular check-up and genetic testing as suggested by the doctor should be done.
It is always advised to get as much information as possible. There are many cases where most babies born in such marriages are born healthy with no disease condition, nonetheless following your doctor’s advise would keep your mind at ease.