Statistics showing congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities as the main causes of death of newborns in Taiwan has led health authorities to conduct a review and raised questions about the age at which women should give birth.
Health Promotion Administration official Chen Miao-hsin (陳妙心) said that the government has begun a program to review and analyze the deaths of newborns in response to the data and set up a review mechanism to help draft preventive measures.
According to Ministry of Health and Welfare data on the 10 leading causes of death among Taiwanese last year, 811 babies died before their first birthday and 505 of them, or 62.3 percent, were younger than four weeks old when they passed away.
The data, released last month, found that congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities were the top causes of death among newborns for the eighth straight year, taking 20.5 percent of lives.
They were followed by respiratory diseases during the perinatal period at 14.4 percent and diseases related to the pregnancy period and embryo growth at 6.9 percent.
Hsu Chyong-hsin (許瓊心), head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mackay Memorial Hospital, has suspected pregnancy at an advanced maternal age could be associated with the phenomenon, according to a report in the Chinese-language United Daily News on Monday.
The pediatrician told the daily that pregnancy at an advanced maternal age can increase the risk of ovum mutation, which would make it more likely for a woman to bear an unhealthy embryo.
She was cited by the newspaper as saying that clinical cases show that in the past, most mothers of newborns in intensive care wards were in their 30s, but now the number of such mothers over 40 has dramatically increased.
Chen said in the report that while congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities have been the most common causes of death in infants, it remains unknown whether the trend is associated with a mother’s age.
However, many clinical cases show that the older a mother is, the higher the risk of chromosomal abnormality of the embryo, which is why the administration has decided to review the issue to see if preventive measures can be taken, Chen said.
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