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Parenting a child with Down's syndrome

All new parents have concerns, but being a parent of a child with Down’s syndrome brings extra questions and challenges.

Questions for health professionals will include areas like the amount of stimulation the new baby needs as well as planning for possible early intervention programmes.

What is Down’s syndrome?

Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal condition that leads to a combination of birth abnormalities. The condition normally occurs when a fertilised egg has an extra chromosome. In normal conditions, a fertilised egg has 23 pairs of chromosomes. A child with Down’s syndrome has an extra copy of chromosome 21 - the medical term for Down’s syndrome is Trisomy 21. A child with Down’s syndrome may be born with a range of symptoms, including delayed physical and mental development. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Down’s syndrome is among the most common genetic birth abnormalities. It affects around one in every 1,000 babies. Approximately 750 babies with Down’s syndrome are born in the UK each year.

Signs and symptoms of a child with Down’s syndrome

Common physical signs of a child with Down’s syndrome include:

  • Upward slanting eyes
  • A flat face
  • Abnormally shaped ears
  • A short neck
  • Poor muscle tone and loose ligaments

If doctors detect these physical traits during newborn screening, they will do a blood test to look for extra chromosomes and confirm whether or not the newborn is a child with Down’s syndrome.

Most people with Down’s syndrome have some degree of learning disability that ranges from mild to moderate. Early intervention has been shown to boost a child's potential for development.

Other common health issues for a child with Down’s syndrome

Down’s syndrome is linked with a host of medical problems, some of which can be serious. You should make sure your child with Down’s syndrome gets regular medical care. The potential problems include:

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