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Health : Should I take baby test at 37?; Commonsense answers to your health problems by the 7 days doctor.

Byline: Dr Gareth Smith

Q I AM going to havemy first baby at the age of 37 and my partner and I are delighted. My doctor suggested amniocentesis to make sure everything is OK but I have read up on this test and know there are risks. What do you think?

A THIS is a very personal decision and one most pregnant women aged 35 and above will be asked to make. But it is not unusual to have a baby in your late 30s. Madonna was your age when she had her first baby, Lourdes. The test is a way of finding out whether the baby has a genetic disorder such as Down's Syndrome. There is a small risk of miscarriage about one per cent so it is only done if there is a reason to suspect something could be wrong. Women older than 35 are offered it routinely because they have about the same risk of the baby having Down's Syndrome as of miscarrying after amniocentesis. If you decide to have the test, a needle is inserted into the womb and a sample of the amniotic fluid around the baby is sucked out. This fluid contains cells shed from the skin of the babywhichcanbe DNA tested to find out if there is a problem.

Q I WOKEup after a night out feeling woozy, sick and unable to remember much. Thing is I only had a couple of drinks. I suspect a guy at the party may have spiked my drink. What are the symptoms and effects of date rape drugs?

A ROHYPNOL and GHB are the best-known date rape drugs but more than 20 substances have been found in the urine samples of victims. Rohypnol is a pill that is 10 times more powerful than Valium. It can be fatal, especially when combined with alcohol. It is odourless, colourless and tasteless and dissolves within seconds in any drink. Within 15 to 30 minutes a person can experience mental confusion, dizziness, hot and cold spells, nausea, inability to speak clearly, decreased blood pressure, drowsiness and amnesia. The effects peak within twohours, can last eight to 12 hours and may not fully wear off forseveral days. GHB is a depressant which usually comes as an odourless, clear liquid but sometimes comes in a white powder form. It hasa salty taste which is easily masked in drinks. GHB taken in high doses, with alcohol or any other depressant drug, can also be fatal. Within 15 minutes a person can experience drowsiness, loss of inhibitions, shallow breathing, decrease in blood pressure, vomiting, seizures and amnesia. You should contact the police and have a full medicalexamination. But it maybe too late for them to find drugs in your system as Rohypnol can only be detected 60 to 72 hours after taking it and GHB for eight to 12 hours.

Q I HAVE a dreadful pain in my shoulder and can hardly lift my hands over myhead to get dressed. Do you think it could be arthritis?

A IT is more likely to be a frozen shoulder. This is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Recovery is usually slow but most cases clear up within two years. The first symptom is pain, which settles over time but the stiffness and limitation of movement become worse. Stiffness lasts for up to a year and patients may never recover full movement. It is caused by inflammation of the joint, leading to thickening. There is usually no known reason but can follow a minor injury, bronchitis, stroke or heart attack. Treatment includes painkillers, heat lamps, cold compresses, ultrasound or manipulation. In severe cases an injection of corticosteroids will help. I suggest you see the doctor and have an X-ray.

Q MY husband has a kidney stone and was told he has to get it removed. Whatcausesthese? A THESE are small crystals of waste products deposited in the kidney when there is not enough water in urine to keep it dissolved eg if you are dehydrated. This does not cause stones. There is always some other factor such as kidney disease, infection, gout or excessive intake of vitamin D. Kidney stones can grow quite large. Small ones (the size of a grainof sand) may pass from the kidney to the bladder, then to the outside. Bigger stones can get stuck anywhere along the urinary system. The stones can be surgically removed with a very small incision or broken up using ultrasound energy.

Q I HAVE been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. The doctor said I needed to reduce my stress and change my diet. Can you give me more information?

A IBS is a long-term disorder featuring recurrent abdominal pain and intermittent diarrhoea and constipation. There is usually no obvious cause and it is very common. Try avoiding fatty and highly-spiced foods, gas-producing vegetablessuch as beans and excess alcohol. Cut down on caffeine and products containing the artificial sweetener sorbitol and eat more fibre. Special diets (e.g. cutting out wheat or dairy milk products entirely) may help but should be undertaken only with medical supervision. Acupuncture, peppermint oil capsule or Chinese herbal medicine can also help. Call the IBS network for more information on 0114 2611531.

Write to Dr Smith, 7 days, Sunday Mail, One Central Quay, Glasgow, G3 8 DA or e-mail: g.smith@sundaymail.co.uk Letters can't be answered personally

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Star tum: Madonna, like many women, became a mum in her late 30s
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 23, 2003
Words:916
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