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More Children Born With Down Syndrome

By Kelli Grant
Published: December 15, 2009, 6:12 PM

A new report says that more children in the U.S. are being born with Down syndrome. And researchers say the overriding reason is more older women are having babies.

Fifteen-year-old Scotty Briggs is an 8th grader at Memorial Middle School. Science is one his favorite classes because he learns something new every day.

"He's in the classroom with the other kids and he has a schedule just like the other kids have and he just goes about his day," Scotty's mom, Julie Briggs, said.

She is thankful for that. It's a future she was scared to think about when he was born.

"I just didn't, didn't think of the possibility of having a child with Down syndrome at that time," Briggs said.

Briggs was 35 years old when Scotty was born. Because there's a strong association between Down syndrome and a woman's age, she went through testing early on in the pregnancy.

"I didn't have further testing because I wouldn't have done anything to you know affect the pregnancy," Briggs said.
"Sometimes the age 35 gets used as this magic cutoff when there's an increased risk but it really, it's a gradual risk. There's a risk at any age. There's a risk at 20, there's a risk at 30, there's a risk at 40," Sanford Genetic Counselor Quinn Stein said.

Stein says while the numbers aren't dramatic, more children are being born with Down syndrome. In South Dakota, there are one or two more births a year and age is playing a part.

"A woman's born with all the eggs she will ever have and so each year a woman ages, so do the eggs she has," Stein said.

To conceive, a woman's egg has to divide its 46 chromosomes in half. That way, when combined with a man's sperm the baby has a total of 46. A child born with Down syndrome has an extra chromosome.

Fifteen years ago, Briggs made the decision to make sure her family kept growing. It's a decision she will never regret.

"Your challenges are different than they are with a typical child. There's no question about that. But it's just truly a blessing," Briggs said.

Expecting mothers can go through a number of screenings to find out if their child could be born with Down syndrome. To learn more about those, you can check out resources about first trimester screen or amniocentesis online.

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