How to Deal With a Diagnosis of Down Syndrome

Tips for Getting Through the Early Days

upset woman with doctor in background
BURGER/PHANIE/Passage/Getty Images

It can be devastating to hear that your child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. After months of waiting for a healthy baby, your world is turned upside by the news. Those first days after the baby’s birth can be very confusing, frightening and overwhelming.

New parents are often either inundated with information or receive very little guidance at all.

No matter what your situation, there are some things you can do to help you cope with the news that your child has Down syndrome.

Don't Ignore Your Emotions

The birth of a baby with Down syndrome often brings with it a set of conflicting emotions. You are coming to love the baby that you have, but you are still grieving the loss of the baby you imagined. It is important to remember that conflicting emotions don’t cancel each other out. You can feel several emotions at one time and have them all be valid. It may take days or weeks for you to regain your emotional balance -- this is a process that cannot be rushed. Just take one day at a time.

That being said, if after a few months, you still feel sad, anxious and depressed, be sure and tell your doctor. You may be suffering from postpartum depression. Having a baby with Down syndrome doesn’t make this more likely, but it is still a possibility that should be evaluated and treated if necessary.

Care for Yourself

Giving birth is an exhausting endeavor usually made easier by the arrival of a healthy happy newborn. However, receiving upsetting news after a birth can exacerbate your exhaustion and make your recovery time longer. It is important to take care of yourself physically at this time. Try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can.

If someone volunteers to help with the baby or cook a meal, let them.

Take One Day at a Time

In the beginning, it is very easy to let worries about the future of your child overwhelm you. You may find yourself worrying about where she will go to school, what type of job she will have, and where she will live when she is older. It is natural to have these concerns and they are very important questions, but it is important to remember that these questions don’t need to be answered now.

Confronting a lifetime of issues right after the birth of a child can be overwhelming and create a sense of helplessness. Do your best to put your worries about the future away for now. Enjoy your newborn and spend time getting to know her. There really is nothing more precious than those first few weeks after your baby is born, and it will slip by very quickly. Try to relax and enjoy the moment.


Cunningham, C. Understanding Down syndrome: An Introduction for Parents (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Brookline. 1999.

Stray-Gunderson, Karen. Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parents' Guide Woodbine House. 1995