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Down syndrome

down syndrome

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What is down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a condition resulting from a baby having 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. This will have been present from conception and it changes the normal development of the body and brain.

It affects around 1 in 400 to 1 in 1500 births in different countries (in the UK this number is around 1 in 920 births). This condition is more common in babies born to older mothers however a woman of any age can have a down syndrome baby, regardless of age, health or environment.As a newborn, a down syndrome baby’s needs can be much the same as any other baby however there are other health implications and differences in development as baby grows.

If your baby has been diagnosed with down syndrome it can be a difficult time. There is a lot of information to take in but you may find the more you can understand about the condition, the more you will feel able to help with your baby’s individual needs. Your doctor is there to offer help and advice so ask as many questions as you need. Down syndrome is more common than you think and due to the rising numbers of people living with the condition, even more support is available to you.

What does this mean for baby’s growth and development?

If you are carrying a baby with down syndrome, your delivery may not differ from a typical birth however your baby is at a higher risk from other health problems associated with down syndrome therefore you will probably have been advised to have a hospital birth rather than contemplating a home birth.Almost all of the health conditions that affect people with down syndrome also affect the wider population. This may not feel like much of a comfort but this fact means that there is already plenty of medical knowledge and expertise out there to help manage any conditions that may affect your child.

The health and physical features of people with down syndrome can vary hugely from one person to another – the conditions mentioned in this article are not guaranteed to affect your child but knowing what to look out for will help identify them quickly.If you have a baby with down syndrome, your doctor will be on hand to make sure the necessary checks are made at birth and that a long term plan is in place to monitor your child’s growth and development.

Health and Development

Infections may be more common in children with down syndrome, particularly respiratory, skin and bladder infections. It’s believed this may be due to the immune system having developed with abnormalities.

Heart defects occur in almost half of all babies born with down syndrome with a small percentage requiring surgical intervention in the first few months of their lives. This is obviously a huge worry for any parent. If this affects your child, remember to ask plenty of questions – this is a situation where you may feel very helpless but knowing what’s happening and why can sometimes help you regain some feeling of control over an otherwise difficult time.

Up to 80% of children with down syndrome will experience some hearing loss, in some instances this is severe. This can be attributed to more prevalent infections or to physical differences in the way the ear has developed. Hearing is vital for children as they develop speech, language and social skills so this is a contributing factor to the learning difficulties faced by children with down syndrome. This doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to learn all these things but hearing loss undoubtedly plays a part in delaying these milestones. Similarly there may be delays in developing effective focussing and sharpness of vision but many vision problems can be corrected with glasses. Regular evaluations will help monitor any changes in hearing and sight so that they can be treated as soon as possible.

down syndrome

The outlook is bright

Overall, your child’s milestones will be delayed in comparison with other children but it doesn’t mean they won’t get there. The health problems associated with this condition are not limited to the ones mentioned in this article but children with down syndrome flourish with the same love, attention and inclusion as any other child, regardless of these factors. They have a full range of emotions and can grow up to lead independent lives needing varying degrees of support.

Your child may have some learning difficulties but they will still have the imagination, contagious enthusiasm and sense of fun that you hoped and wished for when you found out you were having a baby. To quote something I read while researching this article, the mother of a baby affected by this condition said ‘down syndrome will not be the most interesting thing about your son or daughter’.





About Celyn Parry

About Celyn Parry

Celyn Parry has 12 years experience working with a leading children’s retailer but is now focusing on her passion for writing. With many years spent on the shop floor listening to parents, she prides herself on creating down to earth articles with a dash of humour and personal insight. As Step-Mum to adorable chatterbox Max, it’s a bit of a juggling act but it certainly keeps things interesting!

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