By Dr. Seema Thakur, Gynaecology
Pregnancy is a big decision for most people. You need to consider a number of factors before deciding to give birth to a child. Financial independence and career growth are some aspects that most women think about before conceiving. However, medical research has shown that waiting too long can create a number of problems for the child and the mother.
One of the risks involved with greater maternal age is the threat of Down syndrome for your unborn child.
Pregnancy: How long should you wait?
Research indicates that the majority of women are waiting longer to have their first child. Women aged 35 and above have a greater chance of chromosome abnormalities, which are transferred to their children. However, this risk is much lower when it comes to women aged 30 years and below.
However, to understand how age plays a factor in your child being born with Down syndrome, you need to understand the causes of the disease.
Causes for Down syndrome:
Down syndrome may occur because of three main reasons-
• Trisomy is the most common cause of the disorder. In such a case, there exist three copies of the 21st chromosome, instead of two copies. Trisomy occurs due to an uneven division of the chromosomal matter in the egg of the mother.
• Translocation is another cause for Down syndrome. Here, the copy of the 21st chromosome attaches to another chromosome, leading to the abnormality.
• Lastly, some children may be born with a mixture of normal cells and abnormal cells. In these abnormal cells, there are three copies of the 21st chromosome, instead of two.
How does age affect chromosomal quality in women?
Women are born with all of their eggs. A woman’s body does not produce newer eggs with time. Therefore, the eggs age with the woman. According to research, by the time a woman reaches 40 years, 60 percent of her eggs have an abnormal number of chromosomes.
Research is still underway to determine ways to limit chromosomal abnormality in the children of older women. However, until then, the best way to limit chances of Down syndrome for your child is to conceive before turning 35. You can also undergo genetic testing to determine the risk of the disease for your offspring.