In order to elucidate the consistency between generally used age-dependent risk values for Down syndrome (DS) and estimates of the probability of miscarriage in Down pregnancies we have compared expected numbers with estimated numbers of births with DS in Denmark had no intervention at all been carried out. The expected numbers were calculated from the distribution of newborn children according to maternal age combined with the age-related risk of DS. The estimated numbers of children that actually would have been born without any intervention were estimated from observed numbers of cases of DS, i.e. the cases born plus - with corrections because of the high probability of miscarriage in DS pregnancies - a proportion of those cases discovered prenatally. The analysis was carried out separately for mothers aged 35 years or older and for younger mothers. We found a high degree of compatibility between expected and estimated numbers, probably with a minor underestimation of the expected values for the older mothers. The performance of DS screening in Denmark in the period under consideration (1980-1998) is discussed in relation to the figures presented. Despite the fact that 11.8% of all pregnancies were subjected to an invasive diagnostic procedure, only about 38% of all births with DS were prevented. This means that in the period 1990-1998, reluctance to accept serological screening has indirectly resulted in the birth of almost 300 cases of DS in Denmark and at the same time the miscarriage of an unreasonable high number of normal fetuses.