Skip to main content

Babies: Down's Syndrome

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many (a) births and (b) terminations there were of babies with Down’s Syndrome in each of the last five years; (147008)

(2) how many (a) births and (b) terminations there were of babies with (i) spina bifida, (ii) heart defects and (iii) kidney problems recognised during pregnancy in each of the last five years.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl, dated 4 July 2007:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent questions asking how many (a) births and (b) terminations there were of babies with Down's Syndrome in each of the last five years (147008); and how many (a) births and (b) terminations there were of babies with (i) spina bifida, (ii) heart defects and (iii) kidney problems recognised in pregnancy in each of the last five years (147009). I am replying in her absence.

The table attached provides (a) the number of births notified to the National Congenital Anomaly System for England and Wales (NCAS) with a mention of (i) Down Syndrome, (ii) spina bifida, (iii) any cardiovascular anomaly, and (iv) selected renal anomalies, for 2001 to 2005 (the latest year available); and (b) the number of legal abortions reported to the Chief Medical Officers for England and Wales under Ground E of the Abortion Act 1967 with a mention of these anomalies, for 2001 to 2006 (the latest year available).

The number of notifications received by NCAS is likely to be less than the actual number of infants born with an anomaly. NHS Trusts provide these notifications to NCAS on a voluntary basis, either on forms sent to ONS or via local congenital anomaly registers. The recording of congenital anomalies is more complete in those areas where a register operates, because the register can obtain additional information locally. Consequently, the figures for congenital anomalies are presented separately for areas where a register operated in 2005 and for areas without a register in that year. In 2005, registers covered 45 per cent of births in England and all births in Wales.

While a few of these local congenital anomaly registers were already established in 2001, others were set up as late as 2003. Increases over time in the number of notifications for some congenital anomalies in the areas covered by a register in 2005 are likely to be due to the improved completeness of information brought about as these registers came into operation.

Congenital anomalies are reported to NCAS at or after birth, and do not include any information on whether or not the anomaly was diagnosed during pregnancy.

Abortions are carried out under Ground E of the Abortion Act only if there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Therefore, the anomaly must by definition have been diagnosed during pregnancy.

Table 1: Number of notifications of selected congenital anomalies1, 2001-05 and abortions2, 2001-06, England and Wales3, 4

Number

Congenital anomalies

Register areas

Non-register areas

All areas

Abortions

Down syndrome

2001

253

128

381

347

2002

220

138

358

372

2003

282

122

404

401

2004

364

111

475

419

2005

350

103

453

429

2006

436

Spina bifida

2001

34

25

59

127

2002

46

29

75

98

2003

41

40

81

118

2004

53

25

78

90

2005

34

22

56

121

2006

106

Cardiovascular anomalies

2001

1,029

253

1,282

110

2002

1,031

260

1,291

103

2003

1,359

179

1,538

108

2004

1,282

159

1,441

147

2005

1,255

142

1,397

111

2006

129

Selected renal anomalies5

2001

461

232

693

48

2002

517

217

734

43

2003

645

190

835

56

2004

622

162

784

43

2005

615

161

776

45

2006

32

1 Live and still births notified to the National Congenital Anomalies System with a mention of the anomalies listed.

2 Legal abortions performed under Ground E of the Abortion Act 1967. Figures provided by Department of Health.

3 Births and abortions to women resident in England and Wales.

4 Down Syndrome is defined using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition (ICD-10) code Q90, spina bifida using code Q05, and cardiovascular anomalies using codes Q20-Q28. Selected renal anomalies were defined using ICD-10 codes Q60-Q61, Q62.0 and Q63 for congenital anomalies and codes Q60-Q61 for abortions.

5 Congenital anomaly figures for selected renal anomalies are provisional.