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Does a Parent's Age Increase Risk of Conceiving Child with Oral Clefts?

May 9, 2005

Doctors have long recognized the older a woman is during pregnancy, the greater are the chances her baby will be born with a birth defect. What remains unclear is whether parental age - including the age of the father - is a risk factor for cleft lip and/or palate or the genetically distinct cleft palate. To answer this question, NIDCR grantees and colleagues identified 2,876 Danish babies born with isolated oral clefts from 1973 to 1996. According to the data, 1,920 babies had cleft lip and/or palate, while 956 infants were born with cleft palate alone. The researchers then turned to Denmark’s highly reliable Civil Registration System to determine the ages of the parents of these children. Based on their analyses, the scientists determined the age of both parents is a risk factor for both conditions. However, the group offered two interesting qualifiers from the data. One, in a joint analysis comparing the mother’s and father’s age, they found the contribution of each parent to the baby’s risk was dependent on the age of their partner. Secondly, they found the age of the father was a risk factor for cleft palate only, while it was not for the mother.

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This page last updated: February 26, 2014