What is Edwards’ syndrome? Eastenders’ Whitney and Zack’s baby receives diagnosis
Eastenders’ Whitney Dean sadly discovered that her baby has Edwards’ syndrome in recent episodes of the soap.
As a result, Monday’s episode saw her decide to have a termination for medical reasons.
Dean, played by Shona McGarty, fell pregnant after a fling with Zack Hudson, played by James Farrar. Together, they had to face a difficult decision regarding their unborn baby’s future.
McGarty told Radio Times: "Working with the charities and speaking with women who have had experience with this really helped me to get a better understanding of emotionally what they were going through.
"Being an actress, I felt it was important to portray their feelings as accurately as possible, and also to get the medical information completely accurate, even the smallest details."
So what is Edwards’ syndrome and what causes it?
What is Edwards’ syndrome?
The NHS says Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a rare but serious condition.
Most babies with it will die before or shortly after being born. Around only 13 in 100 babies born with the syndrome will live past their first birthday.
Babies with the condition will have learning difficulties, and may have heart, respiratory, kidney or gastrointestinal conditions. However, how the condition affects the baby can vary greatly.
What causes Edwards’ syndrome?
Edwards’ syndrome is when a baby has three copies of chromosome number 18, instead of two, which affects the way they grow.
It happens due to a change in the sperm or egg before a baby is conceived, and is not caused by anything the parents have done.
The chances of having a baby with the syndrome increases as the parents get older, but parents of any age can have a baby with it. The condition does not usually run in families.
Is there a screening for Edwards’ syndrome?
Parents will be offered a screening for Edwards’ syndrome, along with Down’s syndrome and Patau’s syndrome, between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The screening is done via a blood test and ultrasound scan, which looks at the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck.
If the screening shows that there’s a chance the baby will be born with Edwards’ syndrome, parents will be offered a test to get a formal diagnosis. This is done by analysing a sample of the baby’s cells.
How is Edwards’ syndrome treated?
While there is no treatment for Edwards’ syndrome, babies with the condition can have their health issues caused by it treated.
For example, they may receive treatment for breathing difficulties and infections, and may need physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Some babies will need specialist care in a hospital.
Advice and support for Edwards’ syndrome
You can visit the SOFT UK website for support and more information on Edwards’ syndrome, and to contact other families affected by the condition.
You can also contact Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), which has information about screening tests and how you might feel if you’re told your baby does have, or might have, a problem.
ARC has a helpline that can be reached on 0845 077 2290, or 0207 713 7486 from a mobile, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm. The helpline is answered by trained staff, who can offer information and support.