I thought I would make a headline of my own. As I am not quite sure where I have been for the past couple of weeks when the headlines hit, but there has been another flurry of media coverage about the rise in terminations of unborn babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome (DS). This is more or less the same time last year when similar news coverage stated the same. I, for one, am not sure what they are trying to achieve.
Is it that the media blames women of a certain age for getting pregnant in the first place? Is it that there should be less terminations which would mean that we could have had over 7000 babies with Down syndrome born in 2007/2008 as some statistics have stated? You, the readers, will have your own views, some of which have been expressed on a number of newspaper websites.
The only comment I have after reading the views of a number of people on various websites is how little the majority of people still know about Down syndrome? In the 21st Century? When there are more and more children with DS going to mainstream school? What are we doing wrong?
After reading the reports and as much news coverage as I can it would appear that there are some definitive facts.
Over 90% of pregnant women, with or without input from their husband, partners etc., have a termination once they have been told that their unborn baby has Down syndrome.
There has been a 70% rise in the amount of unborn babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome being terminated.
As women get older their eggs deteriorate and chances of becoming pregnant diminish rapidly. Consequently when a women gets pregnant in later life her body clings on to the eggs, even if they are not as top quality and abundant as they were when she was, say in her early twenties. This is why chances of having a baby with DS are so high for the over 35's.
Other reports also suggest that babies with DS are being born more and more to women who are under 30?
So let us take these facts and see what we can make of them.
It would seem sensible to accept that the reason for the rise in unborn babies being diagnosed with DS might be because of the rise in age of women who are conceiving later and later in life. This can be put down to many reasons. Not least of which is that women, whether they are mothers or not, have been encouraged, no, I'll rephrase that, expected to work, no, that isn't strong enough either, have to work. Now whether they have to because they need to bring that additional salary to the home or because they have a successful career and want to continue with it or even if it is because they have to, as it keeps them sane and gives them a sense of self-worth and self-esteem (I can associate with all three of these) it is so that women are having babies whether it be their first or last later in life. I am one of those women.
At the time of getting pregnant at 36 I had no idea of what the future might hold. I had just started a position as an Office Manager for an International organisation and was riding high! Life was good, money was sufficient to enable us to have a comfortable life. I was offered the test and declined as we had already made up our minds that we would be continuing with the pregnancy. This was what we had decided to do. However, I had had severe stomach pains, loss of blood and generally felt awful so had asked if I could have a scan sooner than later. After having the necessary blood tests at the hospital and chatting with the phlebotomist about what a large family she came from and saying that this was definitely my last pregnancy and how sad that I would have an uneven number of children. I went into the room for a scan.
BLOW ME DOWN I WAS HAVING TWINS!!
So now the decision was taken away from me. If I did have any test offered to me and it came back negative how would we know which one to abort?
Call me crazy, and many people do, but I believe that there is room in this world for people who have Down syndrome because of what they teach us. I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today without my precious twins.