WHETHER you are thinking of committing for life through marriage or you've just decided to live together, medical internist Dr Samantha Nicholson says an important part of preparing for your future together is having full knowledge of your partner's medical history and/or status.
“Insight into the person that you may end up spending the rest of your life with is very important because, of course, their health situation can also affect you and/or that of the children you may have together. In addition to this, there are other challenges to take into account, such as finances,” Dr Nicholson told All Woman.
But what exactly do you ask? Dr Nicholson shares a list of questions that you should put on the table before getting involved.
Have you ever had a STI?
If he or she did, you want to make sure that this was properly treated, or that you will solicit the help of a medical professional regarding what safety measures you will need to take if the STI is incurable. For example, while herpes might not affect your day-to-day life, and while it isn't necessarily life-threatening, it is one of those diseases that unfortunately cannot be cured. However, there are medications available that can lower the risk of transmission, and so if you consider going through with the relationship, you need to know what measures of protection to put in place.
What is your HIV status?
What is more important than asking your potential beau his/her HIV status is getting tested. To make things less tense you should suggest doing it together, and maybe instead of just asking for a single HIV test, suggest a blood profile instead. This way you will be aware of each other's status and your partner is less likely to feel offended. Fortunately these days, armed with the right education and medication (antiretroviral therapy or ART), which controls the HIV infection very well, many people who are HIV positive go on to have healthy relationships with HIV negative people without passing on the virus. However, your doctor will still recommend taking extra steps such as using a condom.
What's your mental state?
Mental health is still a taboo topic in Jamaica, but if you are going to be in a long-term relationship with someone, especially in the case of marriage, then it is important that you understand their mental space. When you are ready to talk about it, even if you see signs of a mental condition, do not appear judgmental so that you don't hurt the person's feelings. If you do not have the courage for this, you can again recommend that you both get screened.
Some conditions such as insomnia, panic attacks, depression, fear and aggression are quite common, but others are more debilitating and less easily identifiable and you will need professional help to diagnose them. Understanding the mental health of your partner will not only help you better support them when they have been triggered, but you will also be able to be so emotionally supportive that you are able to identify when they are on the verge of an attack. You also want to ask the question, especially if you plan to start a family with the person, because some of these conditions can be passed to your children.
Do you have an addiction?
Addictions can kill relationships. They are invasive, they can destroy a person, they can destroy finances and lives. So you want you to ask your partner, are you a smoker? (Some people are discreet and can mask the smell very well); ask, but you can also observe, if a person seems to be addicted to pornography, gambling, E-gaming, as well as even social media. Check also if they drink alcohol excessively or are inclined to taking risks excessively.
Will there be issues with fertility?
There is no shame in being infertile. However, whether you are or not can significantly affect the health of a relationship. A woman's ability to conceive or a man's ability to impregnate a woman are important to know just so no one is blindsided if childbearing attempts are futile. To confirm this, couples can have their fertility assessed before getting serious if this may be a deal-breaker for them.
What illnesses run in your family?
You may want to get an idea about conditions such as his or her family's history of medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's, since these often have a hereditary component. An insight into medical issues your partner is predisposed to, or their potential future health challenges is important especially if you plan to have children. If you do so, it is also important to ask about more explicit single-gene disorders such as Huntington's disease, Fragile X syndrome or bleeding disorders. You should also ask about the sickle cell trait since once both partners have the trait your child may be born with the disease.