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Every year, World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated on 21 March since 2006. The day is celebrated to signify the uniqueness of children who are born with down syndrome and to provide them with equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of their lives.
Down syndrome or Trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder in children characterised by certain birth defects like learning disabilities, developmental delays and other medical abnormalities. It is a type of chromosomal disorder in which a child is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21.
There are around 1-2 children in every 1000 births who are born with chromosomal 21 defect. Also, 1-5 of these children often die in the first year of their lives. Different factors are responsible for the cause of birth defect during any stage of pregnancy. However, medical experts suggest that the combination of genetic factors, environmental factors and individual behaviour work together and cause any type of birth defect in babies like down syndrome.
Can Down Syndrome Be Prevented In Babies?
Children who are born with down syndrome usually grow slowly and have shorter heights compared to children of the same age. Their language is delayed and have mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Also, their short and long-term memory gets affected.
Down syndrome can be diagnosed before the childbirth or during the pregnancy period by screening tests or diagnostic tests. Children with down syndrome can even live for more than 60 years by proper management of their symptoms. However, they may face certain complications as they get older such as sleep apnea, heart defects, obesity, deafness, gastrointestinal defects, dementia and many more.
Down syndrome is very unlikely to be inherited from one of the parents, however, people who already have a child with down syndrome may worry about having their next child with the same disorder. There are no particular ways to prevent chromosomal errors that lead to down syndrome in babies. But it can be prevented by following some strict lifestyle methods during the pregnancy period.
Ways To Prevent Down Syndrome In Babies
Folic acid diet
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is a vital nutrient for women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended amount of folic acid to be consumed daily by pregnant women is 600 mcg as it helps in the proper development of the foetus's brain and spinal cord. Folic acid consumption is required for all women of childbearing age to prevent the risk of any birth defects.
Avoiding drugs and alcohol
Medical experts advise pregnant women to avoid the consumption of alcohol or drugs as the harmful substances in them can pass to the foetus through the umbilical cord and cause problems such as miscarriage, birth defects or low birth weight. Any type of alcohol, including wine is equally harmful during the pregnancy period. So, it is better to avoid them all.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Studies suggest that women who are obese before the pregnancy are at higher risk of getting complications during their pregnancy. So, for women who are already planning to conceive, it is a healthy choice to maintain a recommended BMI to avoid such risks or any complications.
Preventing gestational diabetes
According to a study, gestational diabetes in mothers increases the incidence of down syndrome in babies. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, identified by increased sugar level in the body. It may lead to the risk of chromosomal abnormalities of the foetus.
A pregnant woman needs to take prenatal care by routine checkup to a doctor and stick to the schedule. During the pregnancy, the health of both child and mother is important and these check-ups will help analyse the proper growth and development of the foetus. Routine check-ups also help prevent the risk of certain diseases that may occur during this period.
Avoiding certain medications and vaccinations
Certain medications can cause down syndrome during pregnancy despite the fact that the pregnant woman had been on that particular drug for years. During the pregnancy, several hormonal changes occur inside the body which may interfere with the absorption of certain drugs. Therefore, discussing it with a medical expert will help identify its safety during pregnancy. Also, certain vaccinations should be avoided to protect the foetus from its side effects.