A Haryana-based researcher on Monday said the use of sex-selective drugs, which find a mention in alternative medicines, could lead to mental retardation in newborns. The research was presented by principal scientist Dr Archana Verma at the Women’s Science Congress being held at the Mumbai University.
According to the 2011 Census, Haryana’s child sex ratio is 830 girls for every 1,000 boys. Haryana is among the worst states when it comes to the child sex ratio in India. Dr Verma studied 104 children from Haryana and Delhi having intellectual disability, along with their parents. Of them, 69 were found to have chromosomal abnormalities – which means they either had a missing, extra or an irregular part of a chromosome. Experts said if eggs and sperms do not contain the right number of chromosomes, the resulting offspring may fail to develop properly.
“Apart from doing the cytogenetic analysis of the children, we also took the social history of their mothers asking them about their nutrition and intake of medications during pregnancy. Shockingly, in case of 20% of children with chromosomal abnormality, their mothers admitted to having consumed some type of sex-selective drugs,” said Dr Verma.
She added the team even conducted a cytogenetic analysis of the parents of each child, wherein their chromosomes were studied to understand if there was any genetic predisposition, which caused the intellectual disability. “Parents of all children were negative for any anomaly, which could lead to intellectual disability in children. Apart from consuming SSD, there were no other factors which could be directly linked to the intellectual abnormality,” said Dr Verma.
The use of such drugs is not uncommon said Dr Amarjeet Singh, professor community medicine, PGIMER Chandigarh. A study conducted by Singh and his students in 2009 had established that hormones and steroids present in the sex-selection drugs can lead to genetic malformations. “We had not specifically looked for intellectual disability in our studies. Shivalangi and madhufal herb is a common ingredient in sex-selective drugs, which are high on steroid and can affect the foetus,”said Singh, adding the prevalence of consuming such drugs is as high 50% in Haryana.
Dr Verma said parents should avoid resorting to such means, which are now known to affect the child’s physical and mental well-being.