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Clin Genet. 1996 Mar;49(3):141-4.

Maternal non-recognition of Down syndrome in black South African infants.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics and Developmental Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


Down syndrome (DS), one of the commonest causes of mental retardation in Caucasoids, has only rarely been described in Africa. In previous studies it was suggested that there may be clinical difficulties in making the diagnosis in African neonates. In the present study data were collected by means of a questionnaire administered partly before and partly after a genetic counselling session, to 35 mothers of African infants with DS. The results show that 83% of these mothers did not recognise any facial difference between their affected infant and other normal infants and 57% did not observe any other physical differences. After counselling, 40% of the sample still did not accept that their infant was different from other newborns. Only one mother was aware of infants with similar characteristics. These findings suggest that if mothers themselves cannot see the differences between their DS children and normal children, clinical diagnosis based on physical stigmata may be difficult. Furthermore, acceptance of the diagnosis may be retarded until delayed mile-stones can be observed in the affected infants.

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