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.

Screening during pregnancy

Screening to check if a baby is at risk of being born with sickle cell disease is offered to all pregnant women in England.

In parts of England where conditions such as sickle cell disease are more common, pregnant women are offered a blood test to check if they carry sickle cell.

In areas where these conditions are less common, a questionnaire about your family origins is used to determine whether you should have a blood test for sickle cell.

You can also ask to have the test even if your family origins don't 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.

Read more about screening for sickle cell disease during pregnancy.

Newborn screening

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 weren't screened while pregnant
  • show if your baby is a carrier of sickle cell and is at risk of having children of their own with the condition
  • 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.

Read more about the newborn blood spot test.

Testing for the 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 the condition or your partner is known to carry sickle cell.

If you think you could be a carrier, you can ask for a test from your GP surgery or nearest sickle cell and thalassaemia centre.

Both men and women can have the test.

Read more information about sickle cell carriers.

Page last reviewed: 17/05/2016

Next review due: 17/05/2018