National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) plan to highlight different ways for citizens to get involved in their organization, interact with their staff and support the Down syndrome community through awareness and advocacy.

The NDSS started National Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the 1980’s and have been successful in their studies on the chromosomal condition.

MYTH: Scientists know everything there is to know about Down syndrome.

TRUTH: Though we know that an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21 causes the characteristics of Down syndrome, researchers are making great strides in identifying how individual genes on chromosome 21 affect a person with Down syndrome. Scientists now feel strongly that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future. – NDSS

According to the CDC, 1 in 700 babies in the United States, is born with Down syndrome. Which is an estimated 6,000 babies every year. These numbers make Down syndrome the most common chromosomal condition.

The extra genetic material from chromosome 21 is what causes Down syndrome.

Babies are typically born with 46 chromosomes (little boxes of genes). Down syndrome occurs when a baby has an extra copy of chromosome 21. The cause of these chromosomal abnormalities is unknown, but the one known factor is Maternal age. Between the ages of 30 and 50, the risk of having a child with Down syndrome increases radically. Although, the majority of births with Down syndrome are to mothers younger than 35. This is because births are more common with younger women. Fortunately, there are diagnostic tests performed after a positive screening test in order to confirm a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Types of diagnostic tests include:

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)— examines material from the placenta
  • Amniocentesis— examines the amniotic fluid (the fluid from the sac surrounding the baby)
  • Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS)— examines blood from the umbilical cord

There are actually 3 different types of Down syndrome; Trisomy 21 (nondisjunction), Translocation and Mosaicism. All of these types are genetic conditions, meaning that Down syndrome is not likely to be a hereditary trait. Only 1% of cases have been known to have a family history of the condition.

Donate to the National Down Syndrome Society in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month here.