Can People with Down Syndrome Reproduce?

The abnormal sperm or egg cell division resulting in an extra chromosome 21 in a fetus’s cells is the cause of Down syndrome. Very seldom is Down syndrome inherited. Mental disability is present in some degree, but is often only mild or moderate and may manifest itself in developmental delays, causing short attention span, poor judgment, and slow learning. But is it possible for people with Down syndrome to reproduce?

Can People with Down Syndrome Reproduce?

There is limited scientific information about the fertility of men with Down syndrome. There have been only three or more paternity suits that confirmed a man with Down syndrome as being the father of the child.

Now, since the life expectancy of men with Down syndrome has increased, more cases will likely come to light, as these men are more integrated into their communities, receive better medical care, and their nutritional needs are better met. These living conditions also lead to these men developing intimate relationships more often. It’s still unknown whether or not the man with Down syndrome will father children with Down syndrome.

Men with Down syndrome do seem to clearly have a notably lower fertility rate than do other men in the same age bracket. It is possible to have a sperm count or semen analysis done to determine the man’s status, but this isn’t necessarily definitive.

At least 50 percent of women who have Down syndrome are fertile and do ovulate. However, 35–50 percent of the children born to these women will also have developmental disabilities or trisomy 21. This percentage goes up when both parents have Down syndrome. The chances of miscarriage, premature delivery, or necessary caesarian section delivery are also higher. So, can people with Down syndrome reproduce? In a word, yes, given ideal circumstances.

Sex Education Is Important for People with Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome are more in need to receive sex education. To educate the young person with Down syndrome about human sexuality, a comprehensive plan should be designed for the individual at his or her learning level and age.

The education should be understandable, factual, realistic, and based on high moral standards. Emphasis should be placed on developing social skills and appropriate interpersonal relationships, dealing with peer pressure, learning good decision making, and setting boundaries. The young person with Down syndrome must understand his or her own body and how it functions, and how emotions and behaviors contribute to healthy sexuality.

The question, “Can people with Down syndrome reproduce” should be answered, and parenting responsibilities explained. Lessons in healthy sexuality should be integrated with the other educational, social, vocational, and recreational programs. A positive attitude toward one’s own sexuality can be achieved through developing healthy self-esteem and personal relationship skills.

More Common Questions About Down Syndrome and Sexuality

Do Those with Down Syndrome Possess Sexual Feelings?

In recent history, it was believed that people with mental disabilities (called mental retardation) remained permanently in childhood. It is now recognized that people with Down syndrome do have normal sexual feelings and a need for intimacy.

Therefore, it is vital that those with Down syndrome be educated on the appropriate expression of their sexual feelings as a part of preparation for adulthood. The families or caregivers of young people with Down syndrome should be trained in how to teach their young person these principles.

Do Women and Ladies with Down Syndrome Have Normal Menstrual Periods?

Women and girls with Down syndrome have normal menstrual cycles just as women in the general population. The average age for a girl to begin her menstrual cycle is around 12 ½. However, the cycle may begin as early as 10 years of age or as late as 14 years. Most of the women and girls with Down syndrome experience the same regular cycles and similar minor irregularities that are normal for others in their age group.

If abnormalities in a regular menstrual cycle are noticed, they may be attributed to the normal aging process, or they could be early signs of hyperthyroidism. If these abnormalities persist, if pain develops, or if pronounced premenstrual symptoms occur, seek professional medical treatment right away.

Do Women with Down Syndrome Have Any Special Needs in Regard to Birth Control?

Of the women with Down syndrome, approximately half of them are capable of becoming pregnant. Any contraceptive method may be used by them without risk, just the same as for the general population.

The caregiver, the woman with Down syndrome, and her doctor should work together to choose the best contraceptive method to be utilized. The woman should be able to understand clearly how to use the birth control method and the possible side effects.

Can people with Down syndrome reproduce? Yes. If pregnancy is not a plan, a woman with Down syndrome may undergo tubal ligation (a surgical procedure) without risk given that she is in good health. There are laws in many states that deal with sterilization of mentally or developmentally disabled women, so be sure to learn what your state’s laws are.

Are There Any Special Needs for Individuals with Down Syndrome in Regard to Disease Prevention?

It is just as possible for men and women with Down syndrome to contract and transmit sexually transmitted infections or diseases as it is for anyone else.

The best-known form of protection from herpes, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases is the condom. Information regarding sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid them should be included in the sex education curriculum.

How Can a Person with Down Syndrome Be Protected Against Sexual Abuse?

Educating a person with Down syndrome must begin in childhood with age-appropriate instruction, and must continue throughout the life.

  • These individuals must be taught the appropriate boundaries in social interactions.
  • They must also be taught to seek help when they feel uncomfortable or feel that the situation they are in is getting out of control.
  • They should be taught whom they can trust to ask for help or to report abuse should the need arises.
  • Conducting practices in self-assertion and reaching out for help should be done as often as necessary to reinforce the lesson in the individual’s mind.