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02 / 12 / 2008 - Having a baby with Downs syndrome is OK with us
BEING told there’s something wrong with your unborn child is every woman’s nightmare.
For some, it may result in a termination, but in cases where Down’s syndrome is identified, increasing numbers of parents are choosing to keep the baby.
In fact, more babies are being born with Down’s syndrome than before pre-natal screening for the disorder was introduced at the end of the 1980s.
About one in every 1,000 babies born has Down’s, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome.
People with the syndrome will have varying degrees of learning difficulty, limited growth, characteristic facial features and may have certain health problems including heart defects.
Yet despite such difficulties, the most recent figures suggest births of children with Down’s have risen by approximately 15 per cent.
After the widespread introduction of screening for the syndrome in 1989, the number of UK babies born with it each year fell from 717 to 594. But since 2000, the birth rate has increased, reaching 749 in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available.
Frances Dine was 12 weeks pregnant when a scan revealed a risk that her unborn child had Down’s syndrome, but she and her husband, Paul, gave little thought to termination.
“Things have moved on and babies with Down’s syndrome can have a great quality of life,” she said.
“At the back of our minds we did keep alive the possibility she might not have Down’s syndrome, but we knew we’d be able to cope if she did. There’s so much out there for her.
“Schools are integrated and there are even actors with Down’s syndrome. It doesn’t need to hold you back.”
The couple’s daughter, Erin, is now six months old and Frances said: “When you have a baby with Down’s syndrome you don’t know what to expect, it’s a completely new world.
“But we’re glad to see other parents think it needn’t be the grim news it once was.”
The figures come as no surprise to Vic Wyatt of Balmoral Road, Westcliff.
The 60-year-old father of Rob, 20, who has Down’s syndrome, said times and attitudes have changed dramatically.
He said: “People are losing the stigma towards Down’s syndrome kids, and rightly so, because they are entitled to life like anyone else. I am not anti-abortion for cases where a child is severely disabled, or not likely to survive birth, but I am against it when it comes to Down’s syndrome.
“Things are getting better and better for these children, with their education and their life skills and a lot of them are holding down jobs.”
Mr Wyatt said despite the better opportunities available to people with Down’s syndrome, he didn’t think this was the reason for the increase in the number of parents choosing to keep their babies.
He said: “I don’t think, when a woman has a baby, these things enter her head.
“I am sure it is because people understand now they are children in their own right and as much a part of society as anyone else.”
Sue Gallagher, 41, of Harold Gardens, Wickford, agrees.
Mrs Gallagher whose six-year-old daughter Orla has Down’s syndrome and attends Runwell Community Primary School along with her eight-year-old sister Chloe, said: “I think these figures are exceptionally encouraging.
“Society is becoming more and more aware about children not just with Down’s but with other learning difficulties.
“They are becoming far more accepted into society. The teachers and children at Orla’s school are lovely with her.
“These children have their own special gifts. They give unconditional love, they don’t pre-judge, they are friendly, accepting and full of life and joy.
“They say if we had a Prime Minister with Down’s syndrome there would be no more wars.”
In an attempt to understand why more women are opting to go ahead with Down’s pregnancies, the Down’s Syndrome Association surveyed its members and found many believed the quality of life for people with Down’s syndrome is better than in the past.
In addition, they felt those with Down’s syndrome are more accepted in today’s society.
Chief executive Carol Boys, who has a 25-year-old son with Down’s syndrome, points out people with Down’s are more visible within the community today.
“Being born with Down’s syndrome is being seen in a different light,” she said.
“When I and others had our babies, those with Down’s syndrome were treated very differently.
“Now there’s much greater inclusion and acceptance, with mainstream education having a huge role.
“We think this plays a part in the decisions parents make. There’s even been a baby with Down’s syndrome on EastEnders.
“Screening is being offered to everybody now, and you’d expect the birth rate of babies with Down’s to have gone down quite dramatically, but that has just not happened.
“Some women don’t want testing because it’s a difficult road to embark on and you’ve got to make so many decisions.
“They’ve left it late in life and they’ve probably had more difficulty conceiving, and they don’t want to run the risk of miscarriage.
“And a lot of people think it’s just not going to happen to them.”
Source : Echo-News.co.uk