Newborns with Down syndrome are at a higher risk for some health complications. It is important to note that many babies with Down syndrome are born without any health problems; however, it is important to be aware of them so you can catch them early if they do occur.
The best starting point is your child’s doctor, or pediatrician. Your child will need regular doctor visits and may also need visits to some specialists. The most important thing when you have a baby with special health care needs is to find a doctor who is willing to learn about the condition and collaborate with you to ensure the best possible care for your child. It is a good idea to ask families of other children with Down syndrome in your area for recommendations. The MCDSIG private discussion group on Facebook can be a good source of referrals. (Email MCDSIG to submit a request to be added to the group.) As a parent, you have a right to interview potential physicians to find the best one for you. Find someone you feel comfortable with and with whom you can communicate freely. A good doctor recognizes that parents are experts when it comes to their children. He or she respects their concerns and sees them as partners.
Medical issues for a child with Down syndrome change with age. Our kids are at a higher risk for congenital heart defects, feeding and growth issues, hearing and vision loss, and respiratory or digestive problems. They also have an increased susceptibility to infection. Doctors routinely screen for these conditions because some, such as a heart defect, may be present even if no symptoms are readily apparent. While the list of possible health problems can be frightening, keep in mind that your baby will not necessarily have all, or possibly any, of them. There is a tremendous amount of information available, so it is important not to let yourself get overwhelmed.
Within the first six months of life, consider making an appointment with a Down syndrome clinic that can give you a multidisciplinary review of your child’s health and point you to local specialists to address any issues that arise.