A chromosomal anomaly, Down syndrome (DS) affects about 1.3 per 1,000 births (calculated as a percentage) in America. An inexplicable error during cell development results in producing 47 chromosomes (rather than the usual 46) in the developing fetus. This excess genetic material conflicts with the orderly development of the brain and the body, producing abnormalities. While there are no definite risk factors, some experts believe that the mother’s age may have a significant contribution.
If you are about to welcome a new baby with DS in your family, you would definitely have a galore of questions and concerns. We help you understand your baby’s needs and the amendments you will need to make to accommodate your beautiful gift.
Understanding The Characteristics
Babies born with DS resemble their family members in certain characteristics, while they retain some special features endowed to them from the extra genetic material. Some of the typical physical attributes are:
- Almond-shaped eyes with striking brush field spots (small, white, crescent-shaped markings) on the irises
- A small head, shorter limbs, small mouth, ears etc
- Single palmar crease on one or both hands
However, do not consider them any different from a regular child, for they have a full range of emotions and attitudes, are creative and imaginative, and grow up to live independent lives, only needing some support and accommodation at different times.
Health Problems In Children With DS
Apart from faring poorly in terms of mental ability and the few facial features that may signify a child with DS, most children with DS do not present any significant birth defect. However, the entire extra chromosome harboring definite genetic information may result in one or more of these conditions during the growing years:
- Ear infections (between 50 and 70 percent)
- Eye problems (up to 60 percent) such as cataracts and vision problems that require glasses.
- Heart defects (50 percent)
- Loss of hearing (up to 75 percent of people with Down syndrome may be affected)
- Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which a person’s breathing stops temporarily while asleep (between 50 and 75 percent).
As a new mother, you may also find that your baby is not very good at sucking your breast milk. Speak to your pediatrician to find the best way to get the nutrition to your child. You may be recommended to use a breast pump. If you have any doubts about caring for your baby or preparing for the birth, it is best to talk to your OB/GYN.
For more information you can visit:
- National Down Syndrome Society
- National Down Syndrome Congress