Knot to be ignored: The medical compatibility test

Jan 15, 2013, 00:52 IST | Surekha S

Gone are the days when matching of horoscopes meant the right blueprint to a successful marriage on all counts. These days, backed by support from doctors and experts, young couples opt for medical compatibility tests including Thalassemia, Hepatitis B and certain Sexually Transmitted Diseases before taking the plunge. While it's a step in the right direction, the taboos means it's a trend that's yet to find societal acceptance

The wedding season is well and truly underway. And one of the most common practices followed in typical Indian households is the process to check for compatibility of the bridegroom through horoscopes, before they wed.

However, recently, young couples who represent a refreshing school of thought, advocate medical compatibility tests as a must before tying the knot, as opposed to the focus on astrological compatibility. Thankfully, the later choice is finding more support because it entails a safe future for all concerned.

What’s also reassuring is that this choice is being seen not just in arranged marriages, but also among couples who have dated for years together. These couples opt for such tests to ensure a safe future and also considering the fact that if and when they plan to have kids, complications are ruled out.

Safety matters
Mumbai-based senior manager in an MNC, Preeti Kumar (26), who will be tying the knot with her boyfriend of two years, Rohit Sharma (29), this week, took a few important medical tests just a few weeks back to ensure a safe future. “I had read about complications arising post-marriage a while back and I decided that certain tests need to be done before entering a marriage.

When I asked Rohit about it, he also supported the idea, and so, we went ahead and did the tests. We both got tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and Thalassemia, other Sexually Transmitted Diseases and also blood groups,” reveals Kumar. Pathologist Dr Indumati Gopinathan, who has advised many youngsters to go in for these tests, feels that there is some visible improvement in the mindset of people, with more youngsters being open to it.

“I tell patients who have been coming to me over the years to get a health profile of a boy and a girl done before they enter into a marriage. It is easier in an arranged marriage to ask for it,” she says. We enquire whether there are still many parents who feel asking for such a test from the groom or bride’s family is a taboo. “Yes, but I tell them to call it a health profile. It’s not just tests for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, but for a lot more. And, one can also get Hepatitis B through blood transfusion. No one is accusing anyone else or doubting his or her character. These are tests of medical compatibility to determine the future health and how healthy the progeny will be,” she explains.

Don’t leave these out...
According to Dr Gopinathan, the tests that need to be taken by the couple before entering into wedlock include Sexually Transmitted Diseases HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, knowledge of what the blood groups are, Thalassemia, and if there are known genetically transmitted diseases then one could check for that, as well. Dentist Sharmila Dey (29), who got married two years back to a man she has known for 10 years, did not get all the tests done, but tested for blood groups and Thalassemia. “I got the tests that I felt were relevant to me. But my sister who entered into an arranged marriage got all the tests done that are recommended by the doctor including those for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. She asked the guy if he was ready to get these done and he agreed,” shares Dey.

Too taboo to test?
Marriage therapist and clinical psychologist Dr Rochelle Suri, believes that such tests are becoming a part of the selection process. “In arranged and love marriages, people are opting to go in for such tests. But still, there is a taboo and many people find it insulting when they are asked to go in for these tests. This is the time when people should bring the would-be spouse for counselling. I give them statistics of how so many people have ended up in a soup, as they did not get tested before entering the marriage. When couples come in for pre-martial counselling I can advise them on this. I also suggest websites where they can go and read for themselves and when they are convinced they can get the tests done,” she says.

The other side
Though the scenario is slowly changing, most doctors feel that a majority of the population still does not opt for getting these tests done. Mumbai-based software professional, Aseem Panchal (28), is one among those not too keen to get the tests done. “I am not comfortable with the idea that the union of two people has to be based on a test. More than a medical compatibility what’s important to me is the compatibility of ideals and thoughts. I would never ask for it unless both the families share a medical history that could have negative effects on our children. Then I wouldn’t be against it,” he says. What will help change the situation is creating adequate awareness and providing essential information, feel doctors. “People would be more open to it, if there was more awareness. People are ignorant, which is why they do not go in for theses tests. The right information needs to be imparted to them, especially in lower socio-economic classes and women,” summarises Dr Gopinathan. It’s a small step, in hindsight, and clearly, even urban India is yet to fully warm up to the idea. Watch this space for updates.

(Names of case studies have been changed to protect their identities)

Before you wed, test for these
> Sexually Transmitted Diseases
> Hepatitis B
> Hepatitis C
> Knowledge of the blood groups
> Thalassemia
> Tests for certain known Genetically Transmitted Diseases 

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