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Parents are more likely to consider having Down's syndrome babies

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A charity has said that a shift in parents' attitude is the reason for an increase in the number of babies being born with Down's Syndrome.

The figures show the number of babies in England and Wales being born with the syndrome has risen to rates higher than when serum pre-natal screening was introduced in 1989.

Around two babies are now born each day with the condition, a figure which the Down’s Syndrome Association says is down to a change in parental attitudes.

The charity consulted 1,000 of its members and asked why they decided to continue with their pregnancy after being told their baby was likely to have Down's syndrome, which is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21.

After screening was introduced, the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome fell from 717 to 694 at the start of this decade, according to data collected by the National Down's Syndrome Screening Committee.

Birth rate on the increase

Since 2000 the birth rate has increased, reaching 749 births in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available.

Figures from the National Down’s Syndrome Cytogenetic Register suggest births of children with the syndrome have risen by approximately 15% when proportions of all live births in 2000 and 2006 are compared.

Findings are revealed in a BBC Radio 4 documentary tonight, entitled ‘Born with Down’s Syndrome.’

Down’s Syndrome Association chief executive Carol Boys said: ‘We are all very surprised by this. It wasn’t what any of us working in the field would have anticipated and it seems to show that more parents are thinking more carefully before opting for prenatal screening and termination – that being born with Down’s syndrome is being seen in a different light today.

‘When I and others had our babies it was a very different world – those with Down’s syndrome were treated very differently. Now there is much greater inclusion and acceptance, with mainstream education having a huge role.’

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