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Maternal age and risk of Dow's affected child

Clinical bottom line

The risk of a woman having a foetus affected by Down's syndrom rises with age, quite rapidly after the age of 30 years or so.

Bandlier visited this topic in issue 111, looking then at the utility of various tests.Figure 1 shows some data from that paper presented in the form of a Paling Perspective Scale. The risk is as low as 1 in 2,000 at 20 years, 1 in 1,000 at 30 years, 1 in 100 at 40 years, and 1 in 10 at 50 years.

Figure 1: Maternal age and risk of a Down's affected foetus


  1. NJ Wald et al. Antenatal screening for Down's syndrome with the quadruple test. Lancet 2003 361: 835-836.