Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

In the news: More babies born with Down’s Syndrome

Posted on: November 29, 2008

I was interviewed on my local radio station about this issue recently, and I can’t help feeling that I didn’t do the subject justice.  The station called me and I was on the air within minutes, and although I had previously heard and discussed the news story I don’t feel completely at ease with what I said.

It is really interesting that more babies are being born with Down’s Syndrome, what are the reasons?  Well I guess firstly women are tending to have babies later and age may be a factor, but I hope it is because women are being given accurate information and actually feel they have a choice.

NHS booklet ‘Screening for Down’s syndrome in Pregnancy’ can be found at:

http://nscfa.web.its.manchester.ac.uk/cms.php?folder=54#fileid170

http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/

I have heard of a recent birth where the baby has Down’s Syndrome and when asked how she was feeling the mother said “Wonderful” – isn’t that just fantastic.  I believe that they were aware that they were at increased risk of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, so were perhaps to some extent prepared for the news.

Obviously this is such a personal decision.  Some families know that they would not want to bring a child with additional problems into the world, but as a colleague recently said to me “special babies are sent to special families”.

Antenatally the screening decision is a difficult one, and one that I hate raising … it is “congratulations you are pregnant … oh and by the way do you want screening to check for abnormalities in your baby” – okay, I exaggerate, but the decision needs to be taken quite quickly, and it is usually at the first meeting that I need to be offering screening.

We have so much screening available now, nuchal fold scan, chorionic villus sampling, blood tests, amniocentesis and detailed scans – great, but a minefield for prospective parents to negotiate.  Some will know that they want all available tests, but some will know that they definitely would not terminate a pregnancy and so do not choose testing.  I usually point out that some people prefer to be prepared for a potential problem, perhaps so that they can give birth within a specialist unit … but how can they really know how they will feel.  Most prospective parents admit that they take the testing expecting all to be well, they may also be unaware that it isn’t just Down’s Syndrome, but a range of conditions that are screened for.

So what advice can I give you?  I would encourage you to read as much as possible, to inform yourself of the risks and benefits of any testing and to speak to your midwife before you opt into any tests.

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