Rise in Down’s Syndrome pregnancies

Recent research from the University of London shows that the number of Down’s Syndrome pregnancies has risen by more than 70 per cent over the last 20 years. The number of babies being born with Down’s Syndrome would have risen by a shocking 48 per cent without improvements in antenatal screening.

Recent research from the University of London shows that the number of Down’s Syndrome pregnancies has risen by more than 70 per cent over the last 20 years.

There is a higher risk of Down’s Syndrome in babies born to older mothers. A mother aged 30 has a 1 in 940 chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. For a mother aged 40, however, the risk is a much higher 1 in 85. So this steep rise could be due to increasing numbers of older women becoming pregnant.

However, due to improved antenatal screening, an increasing number of cases of Down’s Syndrome are being diagnosed in pregnancy. This has led to an increase in the number of Down’s Syndrome pregnancies ending in termination, which has meant that slightly fewer children are now being born with Down’s Syndrome.

The number of Down’s syndrome pregnancies in England and Wales rose from 1,075 diagnoses in 1990 to 1,843 by 2008. However, the number of babies being born with Down’s Syndrome fell by 1 per cent, from 752 to 743.

According to the study, the number of babies being born with Down’s Syndrome would have risen by a shocking 48 per cent without improvements in antenatal screening. Researchers say that the proportion of couples deciding to terminate a Down’s Syndrome pregnancy has remained constant, at 92 per cent. Campaigners say better education about the condition will reduce abortions.

Joan Morris, professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary, led the research and said:

“What we’re seeing here is a steep rise in pregnancies with Down’s syndrome but that is being offset by improvements in screening. It was thought that these improvements would lead to a decrease in the number of births with Down’s syndrome. However, due to increases in maternal age this has not occurred.”

6 Responses to “Rise in Down’s Syndrome pregnancies”

  1. Liz W

    Gotta love the ableist assumptions in those quotations (whether the researchers’ own assumptions or their perception of the public’s, or both). Er, wait, actually I don’t love ’em at all.

  2. Anon

    “According to the study, the number of babies being born with Down’s Syndrome would have risen by a shocking 48 per cent without improvements in antenatal screening.”

    Seriously, why is this shocking?

  3. sarah

    Thank you both for your comments.

    Anon, I find 48% shocking because I think it is a shockingly high percentage.

  4. Laurence Marshall

    Sarah, that doesn’t answer the question! Why do you consider it shockingly high?

    Interest declared. Brother with Down’s Syndrome.

  5. sarah

    Laurence, thanks for your comments. I consider it shockingly high because I was not expecting this finding and was shocked by it.

  6. SHERLY ST. PREUVE

    Rise in Down's Syndrome pregnancies | Left Foot Forward: Recent research from the University of London show.. //bit.ly/3PRk9P

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