The Chief Consultant Paediatrician, National Hospital, Abuja, Dr Denis Shatima, has said that advanced maternal age could lead to a child having Down Syndrome. Shatima said this in Abuja.
He 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 like “impaired hearing.’’
Other symptoms, he added, were depressed nasal bridge; back of the head appears flat, irregularly shaped mouth and tongue.
“The constant features of Down Syndrome could also include mental retardation and low muscle tone,” he said.
Shatima 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 carry significant risk.
“If you plant a tree when it is young, it yields more fruits, but by the time it is getting older, the number of fruits reduce, which also applies scientifically.
“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.”
He said that though Down Syndrome could also be seen in mothers, who raised their children as early as 18 years; the classical Down Syndrome was common in advanced maternal age.
“The type the 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.”
Shatima said that there were situations when an individual apparently looked normal, but some of the cells exhibited different karyotypes also known as “meiosis.”
The consultant also stressed that exposure to hazardous substance in early pregnancy could lead to any form of congenital malformation, which could also lead to Down Syndrome.
Shatima, 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.