Have you ever wondered what you  would do if you were a pregnant about-to-be Mom and learned that the child you were carrying in your womb had Down syndrome? Would you abort your child? Or do you believe that the child in your womb is a precious life from God and you must bear that baby and protect and care for her/him regardless? This is the question raised in a recent survey. 

Prenatal Testing for Down Syndrome is rising

Glenn Palomaki led a team surveying testing laboratories to find out how many women in the United States are having prenatal testing for Down syndrome (here’s the full report). Palomaki has made a career in developing screening tests for Down syndrome, and was the lead author on the study Sequenom relied on to launch MaterniT21 in 2011.

Here’s what Palomaki and his team found about the rate of prenatal screening for Down syndrome in the United States:

  • In 1988, a study found that about 25% of all pregnancies in the United States had prenatal screening for Down syndrome.
  • In 1992, that number rose to be about 50% of all pregnancies being screened.
  • Palomaki’s study found that in 2011-2012 up to 72% of all pregnancies were screened for Down syndrome.

The study provided a further breakdown of what type of prenatal screening women were having:

  • 60% received second trimester screening, usually quad testing.
  • 21% had integrated screening making it the second most common.
  • First-trimester screening rose from 7% in 2011 to 19% in 2012.

The breakdown in the type of tests is somewhat surprising.

Since 2007, all women are to have been offered prenatal screening for Down syndrome, with the professional guideline making this recommendation being prompted by the advent of first-trimester prenatal screening. In 2009, a survey of obstetricians found a “new paradigm” with OBs offering prenatal testing to all of their patients. Yet, four years after the recommendations, and two years after the “new paradigm,” Palomaki et al.’s study found that 60% of all pregnancies having screening were done in the second trimester, not the first. . .

Palomaki’s et al’s study is of interest as it is the most recent calculation of the percentage of women undergoing prenatal screening for Down syndrome in the United States. But, it represents a snapshot of an era of prenatal screening that is now incomplete, since NIPS is increasingly being accepted by expectant mothers. Palomaki et al.’s study recognizes this in its conclusion.

It will be of interest to see any follow up report from 2013-2014 that includes the NIPS laboratories to see how NIPS has changed the rate of uptake of women accepting prenatal screening for Down syndrome, and in what trimester they do so.

The troubling conclusion of this study is that such a high number of pregnancies are aborted. 

According to the latest statistics, 67-90% of preborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in the United States. As a result, the population of people living with the condition has decreased by 30%. In other countries, the abortion rate for Down syndrome can be as high as 90% in the United Kingdom, 98% in Denmark and 100% in Iceland.

To those of us who believe that abortion is murder these are troubling facts indeed.

Life with a Child who has Down syndrome

Individuals with Down syndrome are some of the happiest, according to a recent study. In the survey, 99% of individuals with Down syndrome reported being happy with their lives, 97% liked who they are, and 86% say they make friends easily. In comparison, a yearly survey by the ‘Happiness Index’ reports that only 81% of Americans say that overall they are happy with their lives.

The benefit of living with someone that has Down syndrome extends to the family, as well. For parents, 79% reported in the same survey that having a child/adult with Down syndrome has caused them to have a more positive outlook on their life. Siblings also benefit with 88% reporting that they felt that they were better people because of their brother or sister who has Down syndrome, and 94% said that they had feelings of pride about their sibling.