Detecting Down’s Syndrome During Pregnancy

Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that causes mental and developmental delays and which also has typical physical characteristics of upward slanting eyes, stunted growth, small hands and so on.

Learning difficulty can range from the mild to severe. There is also a greater likelihood of problems with hearing and vision, digestive problems and heart defects.

Knowing Down’s syndrome risk

The single most important factor that impacts risk of Down’s is maternal age. Whereas at the age of 30 a woman’s chances of having a baby with Down’s is about 1 in 900 whereas by the age of 40 a woman’s chances of having a baby with Down’s increases to 1 in 100.

Testing for Down syndrome

There are several pregnancy tests that could detect a woman’s chances of having a baby with Down syndrome.

An ultrasound test to measure the nuchal translucency test will measure the fluid at the back of the neck. Also measuring the femoral length can help indicate if there is a higher chance of the fetus having Down’s.

However this will only give a doctor the idea of whether the woman is at a higher risk of having a baby with Down’s and is not conclusive.

The fact is that most fetuses with Down’s do not show up any abnormality during routine ultrasound screening.

If the ultrasound shows an increased risk of the syndrome, other tests such as Choroinic Villus Sampling and Amniocentesis can be performed to get more information about whether the fetus has Down’s or not.

Importance of early screening

Many experts recommend that testing for Down’s be done in the early part of the pregnancy; or during the first trimester. The rates of detection are fairly good during this time, and the would-be parents have time to take stock of the situation and consider their options.

Options if Down’s is detected

When it is detected that a fetus has Down’s many women choose to terminate the pregnancy, because of the emotional, physical and economic cost of bringing up a child with physical and mental handicaps. Between 87 and 95% of women who are detected to be carrying a child with Down’s choose to terminate their pregnancy, research shows.

However many believe that bringing up a child with disabilities can be an enriching experience and a choice of compassion that enables personal, emotional and spiritual growth. Also society is now seen to be more positive to Down’s and life quality of individuals is much improved. So women who choose not to terminate the pregnancy could take the option of counseling if carrying the fetus to term.


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