Kissing Cousins: SBS Insight

The above program went to air on the program Insight on SBS on Tuesday 29th October 2013. The program very nicely presents and discusses the issues associated with first cousin marriage and reproduction. I commend the SBS team on way they have achieved this.
I have an interest in this topic through my work at Auburn Hospital. Auburn serves a very multiculturally diverse community and as such we see over 200 births per year to couples who are in first cousin relationships.
In 2001 I assisted Professor Caroline de Costa with a piece of research on the pregnancy outcomes of first cousin relationships at Auburn Hospital. This research was published in the Medical Journal of Australia and is one of only a few Australian based research articles on this topic.
If you would like to view the SBS Insight program you can follow this link: http://www.sbs.com.au/insight/episode/watchonline/585/Kissing-Cousins
Here are a few interesting facts about first cousin marriage/reproduction:
– in history many eminent people married their first cousin (eg Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein etc)
– it is not illegal in Australia to marry your first cousin
– there are many communities in Australia where it is common place
– there are some serious, potential negative consequences to having babies together
– increased birth abnormalities (doubled) from 3% (usual rate for general population) to 6%. For every 1,000 pregnancies an extra 30 babies are born with abnormalities, some of which are very serious
– increased risk of stillbirth. The magnitude of this risk is debatable. From our data it appears to be about an extra 10-15 stillbirths per 1,000 births (the background rate in Australia is about 8 per 1,000 births)
– 100 years ago these differences would have been relatively insignificant, but in an Australian health care context today these differences are highly significant

It was a pleasure to be involved in this program and I hope Insight’s treatment of this subject leads to improved education and informed debate and discussion around this important reproductive health issue.

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