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Updated Estimates for Selected Birth Defects

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Birth defects occur in about 3% of live births and are a leading cause of infant death. Tracking birth defects helps us understand trends and strengthen prevention programs.

Chart: Updated Estimates for Selected Birth Defects, U.S., 2004-2006. Birth Defect and Annual Cases. Spina bifida 1,460; Oral clefts 7,088; Down syndrome(Trisomy 21) 6,037.In recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, CDC is highlighting data on the updated prevalence of selected birth defects in the United States. Timely national estimates of the prevalence (total number of cases of a disease or condition in a given population at a specific time) of birth defects help us:

  • Understand how many people are affected by birth defects in the United States
  • Examine birth defect patterns and trends over time
  • Determine if prevention programs are working
  • Help communities plan for medical, developmental, and educational services

About Birth Defects and This Study

This CDC study used data from 14 birth defects tracking programs (Arkansas, Arizona, California [8-county Central Valley], Colorado, Georgia [5-county metropolitan Atlanta], Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Utah) to look at the birth prevalence of selected birth defects in the United States from 2004-2006. Birth prevalence is the number of babies born with birth defects (including stillbirths and elective terminations) compared to the total number of live births in the population. For this study, researchers took into account maternal age (for Trisomy 13, 21, and 18) and maternal race/ethnicity, which allows state and local programs to use these estimates as a point of reference for comparison with future prevalence estimates. The data from these tracking systems were population-based, which means they looked at all babies born with birth defects who live in the tracking regions.

Main Findings from this Study

  • Down syndrome was the most common condition in this study. The estimated national prevalence was 14.47 per 10,000 live births. This means that there are about 6,000 diagnoses of Down syndrome each year in the United States.
  • About 7,000 babies are born with a cleft palate, cleft lip or both each year in the United States.
  • Common truncus, a type of heart defect, was the least common birth defect in this study. The estimated national prevalence was 0.72 per 10,000 live births. This means that there are about 300 cases of common truncus each year in the United States.

Table: Estimates of Selected Birth Defects in the United States, 2004-2006.

Data Source

Parker SE, Mai CT, Canfield MA, Rickard R, Wang Y, Meyer RE, Anderson P, Mason CA, Collins JS, Kirby RS, Correa A; for the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Updated national birth prevalence estimates for selected birth defects in the United States, 2004-2006. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2010; 88(12):1008-16.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: January 21, 2011
  • Page last updated: January 21, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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