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UK press wakes up to Down’s syndrome statistics

Posted Oct 27 2009 11:02pm

Back in April I reported on the latest statistics on Down’s syndrome births in England and Wales from the UK’s National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register, noting that I hadn’t seen any reporting of the latest statistics in the mainstream press.

Six months, and an article in the British Medical Journal, later and Down’s syndrome stories are in all today’s newspapers. As Simon Barnes notes, “it seems that we are in the middle of a veritable plague of Down’s syndrome”.

Take your pick:
The Telegraph: Three babies aborted every day due to Down’s syndrome
The Independent: Big increase in number of Down’s pregnancies
Reuters: Abortion of Down’s babies rising
The Press Association: Older mums link to Down’s increase
The Times: Surge in Down’s pregnancies is matched by surge in terminations
The Daily Mail: Down’s syndrome cases soar as women delay starting a family
ScienceDaily: Increase In Down Syndrome Offset By Better Screening
The Telegraph: Increasing number of women being diagnosed with Down’s syndrome babies
The Guardian: Delayed motherhood behind increase in Down’s syndrome babies, research says
The BBC: Steep rise in Down’s pregnancies
The Guardian: Steep rise in Down’s syndrome pregnancies
Daily Mirror: 71 per cent rise in Down’s syndrome diagnoses
Channel 4: Down’s syndrome cases increase

I haven’t read all of these, obviously, but those that I have read offer little beyond the statistics that have been generally available for six months. Congratulations, I suppose, to the Queen Mary college press team for getting the stats reported.

UPDATE – I have now read them all. Some interesting points from The Times story:

  • “Researchers found that the proportion of cases diagnosed antenatally in women under 37 has risen over the time period, from 3 per cent to 43 per cent. However, among older women, a consistent 70 per cent of affected pregnancies were diagnosed antenatally.”
  • “Professor Morris added that further research was at risk because funding for the national register, provided by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, was guaranteed only until March 2010.”
  • “One woman, who chose to have a termination after a Down’s diagnosis, said: “Everybody says they know what they’d do in that situation. But you don’t. You never know until it happens to you.””
  • – UPDATE

    There are also some stories that go beyond the statistics:
    Daily Mail: Older men five times more likely to father children with birth defects
    The Times: Women’s choices on Down’s syndrome screening must be informed ones (commentary from Carol Boys of the DSA)
    The Guardian: The upside of Down’s syndrome (More commentary from Carol Boys)
    The Telegraph: The Fergusons: living with Down’s syndrome
    The Telegraph: Belinda Benton: I had healthy baby despite Down’s syndrome risk
    The Times: Actually, having a child with Down’s syndrome is no big deal

    The last one, written by the aforementioned Simon Barnes is a really concise, well-written commentary:

    “My second child, Eddie, 8, has Down’s syndrome and, you know, it’s not that much of a big deal. It’s remarkably like being a parent, as a matter of fact. All you need is unconditional love,” he writes… He’s a valid, viable, useful and cherished member of his society: why on earth should he be anything else?”

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