BBC News today

The number of Down’s syndrome pregnancies has risen by more than 70% over the last 20 years, University of London researchers say. The sharp rise reflects the growing number of older women becoming pregnant, when there is a higher risk. An increase in the number of subsequent abortions and more antenatal diagnoses means slightly fewer children are being born with Down’s syndrome. Campaigners say better education about the condition will reduce abortions.

The number of Down’s syndrome pregnancies rose from 1,075 diagnoses in 1990 to 1,843 by 2008 in England and Wales. Despite the higher number of Down’s pregnancies, the number of Down’s syndrome babies has fallen by 1%, from 752 to 743.

This is because improved antenatal screening means more Down’s pregnancies are being spotted and more abortions are taking place. Without the improved screening, the number of babies born with Down’s would have risen by 48%, according to the study.

The proportion of couples diagnosed with a Down’s syndrome baby who decided to terminate has remained constant at 92%, say researchers at Queen Mary.

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