Preconception care, early detection key to managing Down syndrome

A Consultant Family Physician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Olujimi Sodipo, has recommended preconception care for all women to help prevent and manage Down syndrome cases.

According to him, preconception care will help to identify behavioural and social risks to the woman’s health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Dr. Sodipo said the most important thing to be done is to prevent the situation by ensuring that there is early detection.

He added.“Nowadays, there are opportunities to do some tests even in utero, but even before that, starting what you call preconception care, especially for those that are of high risk is important.”

Experts say a woman’s chances of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome increase with age because older eggs have a greater risk of improper chromosome division.

According to the United Nations, Down syndrome occurs when an individual has an extra partial (or whole) copy of chromosome 21.

UN said it is not yet known why this syndrome occurs, but Down syndrome has always been a part of the human condition.

“It exists in all regions across the globe and commonly results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics, and health.

“Adequate access to health care, early intervention programmes and inclusive education, as well as appropriate research are vital to the growth and development of the individual,” UN stated.

The Internation organisation noted that the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between one in 1,000 to one in 1,100 live births worldwide.

“Each year, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this chromosome disorder.

“The quality of life of people with Down syndrome can be improved by meeting their health care needs, including regular check-ups with health professionals to monitor mental and physical condition and to provide timely intervention, be it physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counselling, or special education.

“Individuals with Down syndrome can achieve optimal quality of life through parental care and support, medical guidance, and community-based support systems such as inclusive education at all levels. This facilitates their participation in mainstream society and the fulfillment of their personal potential,” UN said.

March 21 has been set aside to observe ‘World Down Syndrome Day’ and to raise public awareness on the condition.

Dr. Sodipo said with adequate resources, children with Down syndrome can live a better life.

“The good news is that there are now more resources to cater for children with Down syndrome.

“Early detection of course is very important, that is why delivering at a good hospital will aid early detection based on some of the morphological features.

“Sometimes, children with Down syndrome have heart-related problems, which can also be detected early if they are taken to very good hospitals. Nowadays, there are lots of resources for people with Down syndrome. There is need to ensure that their special needs like schooling and care are in place, with the help of support groups.

“The quality of life of people with Down syndrome is improving with available resources, but early detection offers a better chance of prevention and management,” Dr. Sodipo said.


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