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Down Syndrome Risk

The older a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the risk her child has of being born with Down syndrome. Parents who already have a child with the condition have about a 1 percent chance of having another child with the disorder, regardless of maternal age. If one of the parents is a balanced translocation carrier, that may also increase the risk.

An Introduction to Down Syndrome Risk

There are several established risk factors for Down syndrome, including:
  • A previous Down syndrome baby
  • Increasing maternal age
  • Being a carrier of a balanced translocation.

Having a Previous Down Syndrome Baby

For parents of children with Down syndrome, there is about a 1 percent chance that another Down syndrome child will be born in a subsequent pregnancy, regardless of maternal age.

What's the Risk of Down Syndrome by Maternal Age?

The likelihood that a woman under 30 who becomes pregnant will have a baby with Down syndrome is less than 1 in 1,000, but the chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases to 1 in 400 for women who become pregnant at age 35. The likelihood of Down syndrome continues to increase as a woman ages, so that by age 42, the chance is 1 in 60 that a pregnant woman will have a baby with Down syndrome, and by age 49, the chance is 1 in 12.
The Down syndrome risk by age is broken out in the following table.
Mother's Age
Incidence of Down Syndrome
Under 30
Less than 1 in 1,000
1 in 900
1 in 400
1 in 300
1 in 230
1 in 180
1 in 135
1 in 105
1 in 60
1 in 35
1 in 20
1 in 16
1 in 12
Many specialists recommend that women who become pregnant at age 35 or older undergo prenatal screening and/or testing for Down syndrome.
(Click Prenatal Screening for Down Syndrome for more information.)
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What Causes Down Syndrome?

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