Posted by Claudia Grazioso on March 22, 2012
There some great things about waiting to have kids: In general, you are often a more patient parent, a more calm parent (though my kids might beg to differ), a parent who isn’t still struggling to prove themselves in a chosen career. But there are issues that come with “advanced maternal age,” as well. One of them is what I have come to call “The Scare,” which sets in after “The Phone Call” — which several of my friends have received. The call is when your OB/GYN’s office phones to tell you that your screening test for Down Syndrome came back positive.
First, I always tell my friends, a screening test is not a diagnostic test. You can screen positive and have a baby without Down’s, and you can screen negative and have a baby with Down’s. A screening test only tells you how great a possibility your child has of having Down’s. After I had this conversation a few times, I decided to educate myself further about Down Syndrome so I could along any helpful information to my friends.
There are three types of Down’s, but the most common type is Trisomy 21. That basically means that there are three copies of the 21st chromosome. This single extra copy of a chromosome is what causes about 90 percent of the cases. Though there is a rare form of Down’s that can be inherited, it is most often just a fluke in cell division. So there is nothing you really can do to avoid it, and it is not anyone’s fault. Some risk factors are being an older mom, and if you have had another child with Down’s. In short, do not blame yourself.
There are some health complications that parents who have children with Down’s should be extra aware of. Kids with Down’s have a high rate of birth defects, are susceptible to illness and are at an increased risk for developing leukemia. They also sometimes have sleep apnea, and thyroid and gastrointestinal problems.
Here’s where it gets personal. When I was pregnant with one of our kids, I went through “The Scare” after getting “The Phone Call.” And here’s what I also learned — that with early intervention and education, children with Down’s can go on to lead normal, full and independent lives. If you have a baby with Down’s, be sure you get all the support you can for your child and yourself. Through a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapies that will help your child develop coordination, language and social skills, your child can meet the milestones of childhood and thrive.
As with so many things, when it comes to Down’s, education and early intervention are key to success.