Down's syndrome:

New DNA-based blood tests for mothers could provide risk-free diagnoses for Down's syndrome. Research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found foetal DNA isolated from the mother's blood plasma can reveal Down's syndrome. Other blood tests for Down's syndrome are already available. But these test abnormal hormonal levels and have a success rate of about 60 per cent. The most common method currently used is amniocentesis which requires a long needle to take a sample of foetal cells. This method carries a 1 per cent risk of miscarriage. (New Scientist)

Health diary:

A Dublin GP, Dr Mark Matthews, has compiled a Health Record Diary for children. This hard back diary, available from Easons at £9.95, is particularly welcome in the light of the increased numbers of vaccinations which children now need. Parents will be able to record these, as well as details of their child's development, illnesses, height, weight and other medical milestones.


Most of us would give children a soother or pacifier, believing them to be harmless. However, research from Finland found that the children who had sucked a soother between the ages of seven and 18 months had a third more ear infections than children who did not use a pacifier. This unwanted side-effect disappeared when parents gave their infants a soother only at bedtime. Source: Paediatrics.

Erection problems:

One in 10 Irish men will suffer from erectile difficulties at some stage in their lives. The problem increases with age. It's estimated 38 per cent of men aged between 60-69 and 57 per cent of men aged over 70 suffer from such problems.

Dr Stephen Murphy, general practitioner and chairman of the new Erectile Dysfunction Information Bureau says: "Erection problems are clearly an embarrassing condition to discuss with a GP. However, erectile dysfunction is now recognised as a very common medical condition that can often be easily treated by a patient's GP."

Physical causes include the side-effects of drugs, blocked arteries, hormonal abnormalities, diabetes, smoking and excess alcohol consumption or drug abuse. Psychological causes include stress at work, relationship problems, depression and unresolved sexual orientation. An information leaflet on erectile dysfunction is available by contacting the confidential helpline 1850 923 098 or by writing to PO Box 8064, Dublin 2.

Women's Aid:

The Women's Aid "Dining Out to Make a Difference" campaign is running in more than 15 Dublin restaurants. During the campaign, which continues until December 10th, participating restaurants will add £1 to diners' bills. This money will go directly to Women's Aid. Participating restaurants include Chapter One, Moes, The 101 Talbot, Gotham Cafe, Tante Zoe's, The Old Schoolhouse, The Lobster Pot, One Pico, Dobbins Bistro and The Unicorn. Women's Aid provides support and access to refuge for women and children who are subjected to domestic violence. The Women's Aid helpline is 1800 341 900.