THE BLOG
02/27/2012 11:51 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2012

Pre-Wedding Blood Tests

Most couples who are about to take the plunge think they know everything there is to know about each other already. At least, they think they know all the important things, like what her bra size is, and how he likes his coffee, and what kind of music they each like to listen to on road trips. But in most cases, they haven't tackled one very important matter -- their health. How much do you know about the current state of your future spouse's health? If he or she suffers from a chronic disease or illness -- like diabetes or epilepsy -- you're probably better attuned. But for the rest of us, if our lover looks healthy, he or she is healthy, unless someone tells us otherwise.

Once upon a time, blood tests were required before you could get married. Most states have done away with blood tests, and Puerto Rico eliminated that requirement for tourists a couple of years ago. But before they stopped requiring venereal disease testing, I had more than one client turn up positive for syphilis, always the bride, never the groom. These were poised professional women who were unaware they had something they'd probably had for a long time. Symptoms of STDs are usually far more obvious in men than women, leaving a lot of girls to go untreated until after Pelvic Inflammatory Disease has set in.

One couple where the bride tested positive had been together for years, and he didn't have it. To answer the burning question in most people's minds -- Yes! They were all still able to get married the weekend they had planned to without any hitch. A big old pill or shot in the butt, a letter from the doctor saying he treated what ailed you, and you are back in business, at least as far as the Puerto Rican demographic office is concerned. Residents of Puerto Rico are still required to have blood tests for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia before they get married because the island's government has determined that it's one way to help squash a growing infection rate. But I digress...

You and your fiancé should educate yourselves about each other's health and start going to the doctor together when you decide to get married. It doesn't have to be weird -- he can leave the room before a pelvic exam and she can go read a magazine in the waiting room when it's time for him to bend over and cough. You don't have to step onto the scale in front of him EVER if you don't want to. If one of you is willing to switch doctors, I highly recommend doing so. It makes life easier when you can schedule bi-annual or annual appointments together (dentist, primary care physicals, eye doctor, etc.). But even if you don't have the same doctor, what's important is that you attend appointments together. Start with a full physical and participate as a couple in the consultation afterward. There are a lot of things you don't know about your fiancé that you're going to learn when you do this. For example, you may find out that they're watching your fiancé carefully for a specific ailment as he or she ages because there is a big history of it in their family. Or you might find out that your fiancé is allergic to sulfa drugs and you never knew it because it hasn't come up and your fiancé hasn't been seriously ill in the time you've been together. It's really important to know this stuff. If you are in an accident, who do you think they call to get the medical history? You need to know the exact details and you need to understand what's what.

I also advocate attending most medical appointments together because, as we age, we start to want to hide some of the things that are happening to us from the people we love. We all know about how Grandpa wouldn't acknowledge his hearing loss, making holiday dinners an interesting experience akin to playing the childhood game "broken telephone." My husband still claims that he's got reading glasses now only because his arms have shrunk. Serious health issues aren't that different -- people don't like to acknowledge them to themselves or anyone else. But one way to keep healthier and to take the best care of yourself is to approach your health as a team. If one of you really needs to be eating a special diet, the other person is likely to be more sympathetic and supportive if they understand the ramifications of not following that specific diet. More than one of my girlfriends have gone off the pill and chosen alternate contraception when their fiancés found out what it could do to them (as the commercials say "certain women should not take the pill").

There are a lot of things you have to learn to approach as a couple -- healthcare, finances, long-term planning -- but you can tackle them one at a time. In order to be able to tackle them, you need to be healthy. So that's the first priority for you as a couple.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy