Current measures of livebirth prevalence of Down syndrome are derived from data obtained up to 20 years ago, before the introduction of the prenatal diagnostic tests amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). For women aged 36–52 years, but who were not tested prenatally, we proposed to make a direct estimate of current livebirth prevalence of Down syndrome. We could also determine prevalence at the time of CVS and amniocentesis in women of the same age undergoing prenatal testing. Differences in these prevalences allow an estimation of the relative loss of Down syndrome during pregnancy. In Victoria, Australia, we identified 3041 women having CVS, 7504 having amniocentesis, and 13 139 having no test. Smoothed regression estimates of age-specific livebirth prevalence were found to be higher than in the early studies. The estimate of spontaneous loss was 17 per cent between the time of CVS and amniocentesis, and 18 per cent after the time of amniocentesis. The latter figure is lower than previous estimates and may be explained by a greater likelihood of a Down syndrome fetus surviving to be liveborn, given the modern approach to early obstetric intervention. These current risk estimates of livebirth may be useful updates for genetic counselling, but perhaps more importantly, may be used as precise maternal age-related risk figures, necessary in the design and implementation of prenatal screening programmes for Down syndrome.
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