Although NHS policy has widened availability and sought to improve the accuracy of prenatal screening services, live birth prevalence continues to rise.
In April 2001, Yvette Cooper (then Minister of Health) announced that all women (of all ages) should be offered screening for Down syndrome in England. This was subsequently followed by a series of policies and plans designed to increase the availability and improve the accuracy of screening services.
So what has been the result of policies with over 700,000 women now routinely offered prenatal screening in England and Wales each year?
Helpfully, there is a national register (at least covering England and Wales) tracking the outcomes of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome. The latest annual report (PDF) was recently published, giving us non-provisional data through to 2009.
Live birth prevalence in England and Wales in the first half of the decade (2000-2004) averaged 10.0 per 10,000 live births. In the second half of the decade (2005-2009) prevalence rose to 10.9 per 10,000 live births – an increase of 9%. Over the same periods, average annual births rose 12%. Overall, therefore, live births in England and Wales in the first half of the decade (2000-2004) averaged 609. In the second half of the decade (2005-2009) they rose to 745 – an increase of 22%.