A Consultant Paediatrician with Wuse Hospital, Abuja, Dr Paul Opara, has said that advanced maternal age can lead to her having children with Down syndrome.
Advanced maternal age, probable ground for cause in children – Expert
"The precision with which male and female cells meet to produce an individual to achieve good division of chromosomes become prone to mistakes when there is advance in age.”
Opara made the statement in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday.
Opara described Down syndrome "as an abnormality that arises as a result of abnormal separation of the chromosomes in the human body at the time of development which manifest as abnormal appearance”.
According to him, the abnormal appearance in a child can be noticed from birth with diverse symptoms, such as "impaired hearing’’.
Other symptoms are depressed nasal bridge; back of the head appearing flat, irregularly shaped mouth and tongue.
"The constant features of Down syndrome could also include mental retardation and low muscle tone,” he said.
Opara said that the primary cause of Down syndrome remained unknown but that there were risk factors such as "advanced maternal age”.
He said most women who started raising children at the age of 35 and above usually carried significant risks.
"If you plant a tree when it is young it yields more fruits, by the time it is getting older the number of fruits reduces, which also applies scientifically.
He said although Down syndrome could also be seen in mothers who raised their children as early as 18, the classical Down syndrome was common in advanced maternal age.
"The type young mothers have is not a problem with division of chromosome but it is due to change in position of the foetus also known as translocation”.
Opera said that there were situations when an individual apparently looked normal but some of the cells exhibited different karyotypes also known as "meiosis”.
The different karyotypes are where there are normal and abnormal cells functioning in the individual, predominantly found in advanced maternal age, he said.
The consultant also stressed that exposure to hazardous substances in early pregnancy could affect any form of congenital malformation which could also lead to Down syndrome.
Opara, however, urged mothers to raise their children when they were at the peak of hitch-free production.
"Don’t start producing children too late and don’t do it too early too. This is because the mother needs to be fully developed and her body gets prepared for delivering a baby before she goes into it.
"You don’t need to do it too frequently too because you need to regain your health after each child birth before you embark on another one,” he said.
He also advised mothers not to miss their ante-natal care sessions and to always report to their doctor if they missed them.
"If a woman has a history of miscarriage and is also advanced in age, the doctor will have high index of suspicion and need to be monitoring her from possible symptoms of Down syndrome.
"Also there are specific tests that can be done to detect if the foetus is having Down syndrome, the mother would be counselled on the right decision to take”.
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