I’m #WorldDownSyndromeDay is 21st March, so let’s kick off the month by busting some myths.
Below is a list of things that DO NOT cause Down’s Syndrome. It is not exhaustive (because, sadly, the human capacity for stupidity and misunderstanding is inexhaustible):
Down’s Syndrome is NOT caused by any drugs or medication, legal or illegal, taken during pregnancy or at any other time. Some drugs can cause some kinds of birth defect, but not Down’s Syndrome. So, if you have a baby with Down’s it’s not because of the medication you take for your chronic health condition, it’s not because you once took a drag on a joint made from marijuana grown in your mate’s sock drawer, or because you sucked a Fisherman’s Friend when you were pregnant!
Trisomy 21 is not hereditary. It DOES NOT run in families, or occur when two ‘carriers’ have a baby. It occurs completely randomly at the moment of conception, a bit like the random way the lottery numbers come out at the moment when the balls drop. It could happen to anyone – even you. And it’s statistically more likely than winning the lottery.
Down’s Syndrome is NOT caused by eating peanuts in pregnancy. Or any other foods. Yes, I really have come across someone who thought that if she ate peanuts while she was pregnant her baby would have Down’s Syndrome. I was stuck in a hospital ward with this girl, and after listening to her pontificating for a couple of days I wasn’t sure if she even knew what the cause of pregnancy was, nor indeed the relative locations of her arse and elbow. I was tempted to tell her that it is caused by having sex with your school uniform on (which was undoubtedly the cause of pregnancy in her case), but I was in a good mood because of all the hormones so I didn’t.
It is NOT caused by incest. So, if you live in the Moorlands (winky face, just joking) and are married to your brother/sister/grandfather/auntie (or are just a total mother*****r for some other reason) then rest assured – although close-kin sexual relationships can result in genetic defects, Down’s Syndrome isn’t one of them. But, hey, at least it’s not Down’s, right, so you’re safe to continue (sarcasm). Although you should be aware that you might get banged up (not sarcasm).
It is NOT God’s Punishment. It is NOT caused by sin** or by not praying hard enough. Even if you are religious, you have to admit that no god worth believing in would play fast and loose with the life of a vulnerable person by handing their care over to an evil person as a punishment.
Down’s Syndrome is NOT caused by a mother’s eggs getting old (should’ve kept them in the fridge, eh?). Although the statistical chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome increases with age, the reality is that more babies with Down’s are born to younger mothers, because they are the population group who give birth most often.
UPDATE: Down’s Syndrome is not caused by having fantasy sex with a mythical ape-man. Yes – this has actually been put forward as a hypothesis, written in a cod-scientific style (Honestly. I have a screenshot of it).
Down’s Syndrome occurs at conception. Either a person is born with Down’s syndrome or they will never have it. It cannot ‘develop’ after conception or later in life for ANY reason.
The only thing that causes Down’s Syndrome is having (actual) sex, with a fellow human being. Sometimes 2×46 does equal 47.
That’s right! Having sex causes Down’s Syndrome. All the people in the world who have Down’s Syndrome have it because their birth parents had sex*^. Down’s Syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome on the 21st pair. It occurs randomly at the moment of conception. Conception occurs as a direct result of having sex, therefore having sex causes Down’s syndrome. So if you would prefer not to have a child with Down’s Syndrome, then remember whatever you do, DON’T HAVE SEX.
*For the purposes of this discussion IVF counts as sex, since it mimics what happens inside the body after the act of marital (or non-marital) bliss.
^Of course some people choose to become the parents of a child (or children) with Down’s Syndrome by adoption.
** Sex is not a sin.