Single motherhood, C-section, older mothers linked to mental retardation in children – Kenya study

By Gatonye Gathura

Children of single mothers, through cesarean births and by mothers older than 35, may be at higher risk of learning disabilities or mental retardation.

A study among 97 mentally retarded children at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, reports a higher proportion of children born through casarean section in the group compared to those from normal vaginal deliveries.

The study approved by the hospital’s ethics board, and published last month also reports a higher proportion of retarded children from single mothers compared to those with two parents.

“There was more proportion of intellectual disability among children of single mothers compared to those children raised by both parents,” says the study.

The study published in the journal of Neurology Research International on 18th April 2018 was carried out by a team from the School of Nursing Sciences of the University of Nairobi between March and June last year.

There was a higher proportion of children from mothers aged 35 years and above compared to those aged 21–35 years. However the study says there was no relationship between the mother’s age and severity of the condition.

The study which was investigating the non-genetic factors that may lead to mental retardation in children recommend more investigations on the role of C-section, mother’s age and single motherhood in the condition.

Though the team found more retarded children from single mothers, caesarean births and older women they say the findings on this score are not conclusive and require more studies.

However the researchers had no doubt in their other findings including that the boy-child was more likely than girls to suffer mental retardation.

The study had investigated children aged between 2 and 18 and reports more boys, 62 per cent than girls to have been affected.

The study led by Mathieu Nemerimana identified children who had complications during birth, being admitted to newborn intensive care and with cerebral palsy as being at the highest risk of mental retardation.

Study available at:

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