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No higher risk for Down's Syndrome

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Friday, December 11, 2020 | 9 comments

Image: Photo credit: Sleeping Beauty, by jzuidema79, on FreeImages

Women over 40 DO NOT have a higher risk for Down's Syndrome babies.

That statistic is skewed.

The risk is higher for Down's babies with a FIRST pregnancy and since in the last 20 years, a greater majority of women were choosing to put off having babies until in their 40s all of a sudden the instances of Down's babies over the age of 40 increased drastically!

But it wasn't women in general over 40 having babies... it was STILL first pregnancies with the high risk - it just so happened many more of these first pregnancies were occurring over age 40.

Thus the stats changed but were never explained accurately.

I think it is all too easy to think of 1-80 as one in 80%, but it is not.

1-80 translates to 1.25 % for DS, or 98.75% chance of not having Down Syndrome....

Maternal age as a risk factor for occurrence of Down Syndrome

Age...Stats...Percentage DS...Percentage not having Down Syndrome
36....... 1/200.......0.5% DS.............or 99.5%
37........1/150.......0.666667% DS.....or 99.333333%
38........1/120.......0.833333% DS....or 99.166667% NOT
39........1/100.......1% DS...................or 99% NOT
40........1/75 ........1.33333% DS........or 98.66667 % NOT
41........1/60........1.66667% DS........or 98.33333 % NOT
42........1/45........2.22222% DS.......or 97.77778 % NOT
43.........1/35 .......2.85714% DS......or 97.14286 % NOT
44.........1/30........3.33333% DS.....or 96.66667 % NOT
45+.......1/20........5% DS ...............or 95% NOT

What I get from this is that the chances of having a baby with Down's Syndrome does not go up as drastically as I had originally thought.

The one in whatever numbers makes things look very bad for us.

When I translated them however to percentages, they look a lot better.

We have a better chance of having a baby without Down's Syndrome.

If I had an illness and was told I had a 95% chance of getting better, I would not plan my funeral.

Would you?

Source: Jillian |

Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives
by Kathryn Lynard Soper (Author), Martha Sears (Foreword)

-- Having a baby with Down syndrome is not something most parents would willingly choose. Yet many who travel this path discover rich, unexpected rewards along the way.

In this candid and poignant collection of personal stories, sixty-three mothers describe the gifts of respect, strength, delight, perspective, and love, which their child with Down syndrome has brought into their lives.

The contributors to this collection have diverse personalities and perspectives and draw from a wide spectrum of ethnicity, world views, and religious beliefs. Some are parenting within a traditional family structure; some are not.

Some never considered terminating their pregnancy; some struggled with the decision. Some were calm at the time of diagnosis; some were traumatized. Some write about their pregnancy and the months after giving birth; some reflect on years of experience with their child.

Their diverse experiences point to a common truth: The life of a child with Down syndrome is something to celebrate. These women have something to say--not just to other mothers but to all of us.

📚 Start reading Gifts on your Kindle in under a minute!

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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  1. I feel that it's a little extreme to not have children until 40 years old just to prevent down syndrome. I understand it must be extremely tough to raise a child with Down syndrome, but they are still children that are valuable and important. If a child is diagnosed with Down syndrome, you'll be able to love them just as much as any other child, and they can still do great things.

  2. Waiting to have your children after 40 does not prevent Down syndrome, I think you misunderstood.

    It certainly was not suggesting that you wait, but that if you do become pregnant after 40 your risk is higher if it is a first child, but not as high if it is a subsequent child.

    But you are right, they are wonderful lovable children, capable of so much more than society gives them credit for.

  3. JER7195 says:

    Hi Catherine - I am 12 weeks pregnant with my second child at age 43 and will be 44 in May before my August due date. I just stumbled upon your article and want to thank you for the tremendous peace of mind you have provided. I realize there are no guarantees for a healthy pregnancy at any age, but honestly, all those over-40 horror stories that circulate get to be a bit much at times. Can you provide links to any other sites you researched to find this information? I tried in a couple of different search engines but could only come up with the same old stuff about increased risk for Down over 40 but nothing as encouraging as what you wrote. I would love to read more. Thank you again for citing the study!

  4. Congratulations! How exciting - I love hearing success stories!

    Have you read this post:

    The article is worth a read, but here are the statistics and where the author got them.

    Maternal age as a risk factor for occurrence of Down Syndrome

    Age...Stats...Percentage DS...Percentage Normal
    36....... 1/200.......0.5% DS.............or 99.5% normal
    37........1/150.......0.666667%DS.....or 99.333333% normal
    38........1/120.......0.833333% DS....or 99.166667% normal
    39........1/100.......1%DS...................or 99% normal
    40........1/75 ........1.33333%DS........or 98.66667 % normal
    41........1/60........1.66667%DS........or 98.33333 % normal
    42........1/45........2.22222%DS.......or 97.77778 % normal
    43.........1/35 .......2.85714% DS......or 97.14286 % normal
    44.........1/30........3.33333% DS.....or 96.66667 % normal
    45+.......1/20........5% DS ...............or 95% normal


  5. JER7195 says:

    No, I hadn't seen that article before, but thank you for typing out the stats and including the link. I think this comes down to whether one sees the glass as half empty or half full. Plus from what I've read - unless they're specifically researching the effects of obesity, smoking, alcohol, nutrition, etc. - many statistical reports do not factor in overall maternal health when they grind out the numbers. I know some 53-year-olds who are in much better shape than I am and some 33-year-olds who are a lot worse. Thanks again for your kind response! Best regards to you and your family ...

  6. I understand it must be extremely tough to raise a child with Down syndrome, but they are still children that are valuable and important.

  7. Very true! People tend to fear what they don't understand. Every child comes with his or her own challenges - some large and some small. We love them anyway!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Your eggs and your partner's sperm don't know how many children you have had previously. Trisomy 21 is a simple genetic mistake, it is not more risky in first babies. The reason it is more prevalent as women age is unknown, common wisdom suggests older people have older cells that don't divide through meiosis as effectively as younger cells.

    Please don't spread the misinformation that it is a "first" baby that is at high risk for Trisomy 21 (or any of the other genetic mistakes that happen). It's just a mistake. It could happen to any woman in any pregnancy, regardless of her age or her partner's age or how many children they have or don't have.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Is that why no matter the woman's age, she has a higher chance of having another Down's baby if she's had a DS baby in the past?

    My 53-year-old mom has gotten pregnant at least three times (though only I lived past age 5), and she'd like to have another, but she's all but lost hope. I'll show her this site!

Don't just sit there, reading this story or article - say something! Do you believe it? Do you think it is impossible? Do you wish it was you? Do you have a story to share (it might get published!)

NOTE: Comments are moderated - just to stop the spambots - and so may take up to a few hours to be approved.

Catherine reserves the right to review, edit, refuse or delete any comment.


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