Down syndrome,

Down's syndrome, also known as Down syndrome, is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.

Many babies born with Down's syndrome are diagnosed with the condition after birth and are likely to have:

  • reduced muscle tone leading tofloppiness (hypotonia)
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards
  • a small mouth with a protruding tongue
  • a flat back of the head
  • below-average weight and length at birth

Although children with Down's syndrome share some common physical characteristics, they do not all look the same. A child with Down's syndrome will look more like their mother, father or other family members thanother children with the syndrome.

People with Down's syndrome also vary in personality and ability. Everyone born with Down's syndrome will have a degree of learning disability, but the level of disability will be different for each individual.


Screening tests can't tell you for definite if your baby has Down's syndrome, but they can tell you how likely it is. If screening suggests there is a chance your baby does have Down's syndrome, further tests can be carried out during pregnancy to confirm it.

If testing indicates your child will be born with Down's syndrome, you should be offered genetic counselling to allow you and your partner to discuss the impact of the diagnosis.

You may also be offered an appointment to meet a doctor or other health professional who works with children with Down's syndrome, who can also tell you more about the condition and answer any questions you may have.


In the vast majority of cases, this isn't inherited and is simply the result of a one-off genetic change in the sperm or egg.

There is a small chance of having a child with Down's syndrome with every pregnancy, but the likelihood increases with the age of the mother. For example, a woman who is 20 has about a1 in 1,500 chance of having a baby with the condition, while a woman who is 40 has a1 in 100 chance.

There is no evidence that anything done before or during pregnancy increases or decreases the chance of having a childwith Down's syndrome.

This includes:

  • access to good healthcare, including a range of different specialists
  • early intervention programmes to provide support for children and parents
  • good parenting skills and an ordinary family life
  • education and support groups to provide information and help for parents, friends and families

Improved education and support has led to more opportunitiesfor people with Down's syndrome. These include being able to leave home, form new relationships, gain employment and lead largely independent lives.

However, it is important to remember each child is different and it is not possible to predict how individuals will develop.

This guide is for people with care and support needs, as well astheir carers and relatives.

It includes information and advice on:

  • practical support for carers
  • parenting children with complex needs
  • tips on caring for a disabled child
  • children and young people's services

Associated health conditions

There are a number ofdisorders that are more common in people with Down's syndrome. These include:

  • hearing and visionproblems
  • heart disorders, such as congenital heart disease
  • thyroid problems, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • recurrent infections, such as pneumonia

Your child may be checked by a paediatrician more often than other children to pick up developing problems as early as possible.If you have any concerns about your child's health, discuss them with your GP, health visitor or paediatrician.

You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register .

Down's Syndrome Association

If you would like more information about Down's syndrome, you can visit the Down's Syndrome Associations

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Jan 2017