And This Is Where You Can Get Involved

One of the first things that I learned after Micah was born is that Downs isn't caused by anything that the mother did while carrying her child. As any mom knows, if you can eliminate guilt from the start, it's a very good thing. While I never smoked, consumed alcohol, or took recreational drugs, I wasn't that faithful at taking my prenatal vitamin.

The thing I learned was that Down syndrome is caused by a faulty egg. (The medical books won't tell it so bluntly, but that's the long and short of it.) The medical society will tell you that there are many factors that contribute to this genetic malfunction.

1. A mom who has smoked for too many years. (I've never smoked. Unless you count that second hand smoke addiction I had while pregnant with our 3rd. Yoi.)

2. A mom who has been on birth control pills for ten years or longer. (I was sporadic with this, on a year or two, off for a few more, for a total of 7 years.)

3. And especially a mom who's 40 or older. (While I can see how this applies - I mean, at 39 I'm already seeing things fall apart and deteriorate. That's just the outside; I can't imagine what the inside of me is doing - still, I was 32 when I had Micah. That would make me 31 when I conceived him. That's not old by any stretch!)

So this puts me right back to Square One, wondering how on earth we were blessed with Down syndrome.

I have a theory.

I was under a boatload of stress when Micah was conceived. While our family unit was as stable as it ever was, other factors most certainly were not, and the stress was overwhelming at times. I learned with pregnancy that stress affects your body in ways that you can't control. If I saw outward signs of the effects of stress, there had to be internal issues as well. If stress can cause ulcers and acne, it can most certainly affect the manufacture of eggs. A genetically "enhanced" egg could easily be the byproduct of stress, am I right?

So here's where you come in. I have said for years that I would someday conduct an informal survey to determine the validity of this point. If you have a child with Downs, please weigh in on whether or not you remember being under any stress around the time you became pregnant with that dear little one. You don't need to tell me the details, a simple Yes, Now That You Mention It, There Was Stress Involved will suffice.

And please feel free to share this post link with anyone you know of with a child with Downs. I really would like to test this theory to it's fullest and need as much participation as possible. What better time to do this than during National Down Syndrome Awareness Month?

Thank you. I appreciate it already.

* Michelle pointed out that Downs can also be caused by abnormal sperm cells, so it's not always the egg. (See? There is no end of learning in this world. Hello, National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.) But this also fits in with my theory. Stress can affect men just like it does women. Maybe your husband was stressed? Feel free to share. Again. Please.


Jen M. said...

No, I do not remember being under any major stress with Nick. However I did conceive on or just after 9/11/01 so the entire country was stressed.

Michelle said...

Interesting theory! And you're right about the affects stress can have on a body so who really knows what it does internally. I hadn't heard the other possible factors being smoking and birth control though. I have heard that it could come from either the mother OR father though; although I think it was something like 95% of the time its from the mother because of 'sticky' eggs (that's how I remember it being explained to me!)

The only stress I really remember at the time we conceived Kayla was the stress of trying to conceive! It took us 13 months and I really wasn't anticipating that. So it became month after month of temping and charting and disappointment. I finally started the process of dr appts for infertility and was going to have an HSG done after the 2ww was over ... except that time the 2ww didn't end; I got a positive pg test instead. I know, more info than you asked about being stressed :) But there it is!

Mary said...

Complete stress. I totally agree with this theory.

Brandie said...

No stress here, at least not until late in my pregnancy. I have a couple theories. 1. My husband inhaled more than his share of diesel fumes at work. 2. I had a B12 deficiency that wasn't diagnosed until after Goldie was born. I've heard there is research that links B12 deficiency to "sticky" chromosomes.

Mer said...

Stress can do so many crazy things. But aren't a woman's eggs made far in advance? If that's right (I'm not sure), then stress couldn't have made the egg "faulty", but it could have affected the way the cells multiplied at conception... Interesting theory though. Personally, I think it might have to do more with a plan bigger than biology.

JennyH said...

I am not the type of person that stresses over things, generally. So I do not remember being under any stress.

I never smoked and was 24 years old when I delivered mr Max. As for birth control pills.... I had been on them for around 6 years. I stopped taking them on our honeymoon as we were going to try to get pregnant. I had no problem getting pregnant!

It would be interesting if it is ever found out what causes the defect in egg or sperm.

JennyH said...

Oh yeah, I forgot...
I generally did not like pre-natal vitamins either. I hate pills. However, I did take them for most of my pregnancy with Max. I am sure I skipped lots and lots of days though. I also took Folic Acid while trying to conceive (with all my kids) and the first 2 or 3 months during pregnancy.

Karen Deborah said...

I think God knows who he wants to give these children too. A woman is born with her full complement of eggs, the age factor, men can affect it too. I think it's an interesting theory. then I look at that cute little face and think what would life be like without him? Not nearly as interesting. Easier maybe but he adds a lot to the family.

Michelle said...

Ok, not Downs but Asperger's, and YES stress. Little Miss who is neurotypical? Not nearly the same amount of stress. Some, but not nearly so much.

Of course there's my friend who is pregnant with twins after three miscarriages and long, difficulty attempts at getting pregnaant. And pregnancy issues galore. And work stress. She's 37 and been on the pill forever. So far, knock on wood, all tests for everything have come back negative. Each person has her own tipping point?