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Increases in Down Syndrome Caused By Older Mothers

As birth injury attorneys it is easy to focus entirely on medical problems affecting children which were caused in one way or another by negligent medical care. Of course, malpractice is not implicated at any time that a child is born with some complexities. For one thing, conditions may be caused by genetic factors that develop well before the birth itself and are entirely out of one’s control. Similarly, even injuries that arise during the birth itself may in some cases not have been preventable.

Knowing the difference between the injuries that could and could not have been prevented is a crucial skill that attorneys must master. Proving that standards of care were breached leading to a birth injury therefore requires understanding of many other facets of the birthing process in which malpractice was not an issue. Those alternatives are essentially a foil, helpfully illustrating the difference between preventable and non-preventable injuries.

Down Syndrome
For example, one of the most well-known genetic condition affecting children is Down Syndrome. As explained by the National Down Syndrome Society, the condition is actually the most common chromosomal abnormality in humans. It is cause by the presence of all or part of an extra copy of “chromosome 21.” Those with Down Syndrome often face unique intellectual challenges and may suffer from physical growth problems.

Because the condition is genetic, its existence can be detected well before birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 in 700 children born each year have Down Syndrome.

A Rise in Recent Years
In fact, there has been an increase in children born with Down Syndrome and other conditions related to an extra chromosome. According to new research, the recent rise may be due to more mothers becoming pregnant later in life. As explained by an University of Ulster story, in Europe the percentage of mothers giving birth over age 35 has increased by 13% over the last two decades. Older mothers come with drastically increased risk of potential genetic abnormalities in children. For example, mothers over 40 have 17x the risk of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome compared to mother in her 20s.

New research discussing these issues was recently published in European Journal of Human Genetics. The study found that about half of children with Down Syndrome have mothers who gave birth over the age of 34. These rates were also found with two other (rarer) conditions related to genetic abnormalities: Edward Syndrome and Patau Syndrome.

In summarizing the situation the authors explained, “While the total rates for these three syndromes have increased steadily since 1990, the number of cases resulting in a live birth has remained stable over time in Europe. This is largely due to the increased rate of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent termination of the pregnancy.”

Many birth injuries and developmental abnormalities are connected to problems other than potential medical malpractice. For tailored guidance on how the facts of your situation may or may not indicate possible medical errors, please contact the birth injury attorneys at our firm to learn more.

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