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Data & Statistics

In the United States

  • About one in every 33 babies (about 3%) is born with a birth defect. [Read article]
  • Birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20% of all infant deaths. [Read article]
  • National estimates for 21 selected major birth defects, 2004–2006 [Read summary]

Birth Defects*

Cases per Births

Estimated Annual
Number of Cases

Adjusted for maternal race/ethnicity**

  

Central nervous system defects

  

Anencephaly

1 in 4,859

859

Spina bifida without anencephaly

1 in 2,858

1,460

Encephalocele

1 in 12,235

341

Eye defects

Anophthalmia/microphthalmia

1 in 5,349

780

Cardiovascular defects

Common truncus

1 in 13,876

301

Transposition of great arteries

1 in 3,333

1,252

Tetralogy of Fallot

1 in 2,518

1,657

Atrioventricular septal defect

1 in 2,122

1,966

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

1 in 4,344

960

Orofacial defects

Cleft palate without cleft lip

1 in 1,574

2,651

Cleft lip with or without cleft palate

1 in 940

4,437

Gastrointestinal defects

Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula

1 in 4,608

905

Rectal and large intestinal atresia/stenosis

1 in 2,138

1,952

Musculoskeletal defects

Reduction deformity, upper limbs

1 in 2,869

1,454

Reduction deformity, lower limbs

1 in 5,949

701

Gastroschisis

1 in 2,229

1,871

Omphalocele

1 in 5,386

775

Diaphragmatic hernia

1 in 3,836

1,088

   

Adjusted for maternal age**

  

Chromosomal anomalies

  

Trisomy 13

1 in 7,906

528

Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)

1 in 691

6,037

Trisomy 18

1 in 3,762

1,109

*The national estimates data come from 14 birth defects surveillance 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. The number of live births represented by these 14 programs from 2004–2006 was 4,038,506.
** 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. Adjustments are based on the United States live birth population, 2004–2006.

  • Folic acid is a B vitamin that, if taken before and during early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube defects, which are major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine (Anencephaly and spina bifida). In 1996, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that by January 1, 1998 all grain products labeled as ‘enriched’, such as breads, cereals, and rice, have folic acid added to them to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects. This is known as folic acid fortification. After folic acid fortification was started, there was a 36% decrease in the prevalence of spina bifida and a 17% decrease in the prevalence of anencephaly. [Read article]

Race/Ethnicity

Many birth defects vary by racial or ethnic group. Investigating these differences will help us to understand why some birth defects occur more or less often in certain groups and will lead to future efforts to reduce disparities. [Read summary]

Compared with infants of non-Hispanic white mothers,

Infants of non-Hispanic black or African-American mothers had

Infants of Hispanic mothers had

Higher birth prevalence of these birth defects:

Lower birth prevalence of these birth defects

Higher birth prevalence of these birth defects:

Lower birth prevalence of these birth defects

Tetralogy of Fallot

Lower limb reduction defects

Trisomy 18

Cleft palate

Cleft lip with or without cleft palate

Esophageal atresia or tracheoesophageal fistula

Gastroschisis

Down syndrome

Anencephaly

Spina bifida

Encephalocele

Gastroschisis

Down syndrome

Tetralogy of Fallot

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

Cleft palate

Esophageal atresia or tracheoesophageal fistula

Highlighted Articles

Key Findings:
Factors associated with Dandy-Walker Malformation (DWM), a rare birth defect of the brain
(Published: May 19, 2015)

Key Findings: 
Survival of children with major birth defects in the United States
(Published: February 10, 2015)

Key Findings: 
Differences in Hospital Costs and Length of Stay Among Children with Down Syndrome
(Published: October 1, 2014)

Key Findings:
Frequency of Trisomy Conditions using Birth Defects Tracking Programs.
(Published: November 21, 2013)

Key Findings: Opioid Use and Neural Tube Defects
Researchers found that mothers who used opioids in the first two months of pregnancy were two times more likely to have a pregnancy affected by an NTD than mothers who didn’t use opioids during pregnancy.
(Published: September 11, 2013)

Key Findings: Investigation of a Cluster of Neural Tube Defects — Central Washington, 2010–2013
From January 2010 to January 2013, this area of Washington had four times as many pregnancies affected by anencephaly, an NTD, than were expected based on the most recent U.S. estimates.
(Published: September 4, 2013)

Key Findings
Gastroschisis Increased from 1995-2005
(Published: July 15, 2013)

Key Findings: Describing Birth Defects
Public perception of birth defects terminology.
(Published: November 16, 2012)

Key Findings: Improving Newborn Screening
Follow-up in pediatric practices: Quality Improvement Innovation Network.
(Published: October 15, 2012)

World Down Syndrome Day: Raising Awareness
In the United States, about 1 in every 700 babies is born with Down Syndrome. In honor of World Down Syndrome Day, read Stacy's hopeful story about her son Caleb who has Down Syndrome.
(Published: March 16, 2015)

First Ever World Birth Defects Day!
Birth defects are common, costly, and critical. To increase global awareness of these conditions, March 3, 2015, marks the first ever World Birth Defects Day.
(Published: March 3, 2015)

Talk to your doctor about medication use
Make a PACT to get healthy, physically and mentally, before and during pregnancy to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
(Published: January 26, 2015)

Choose a Healthy Lifestyle
Get healthy before and during pregnancy
(Published: January 20, 2015)

Birth Defects
How to Avoid Harmful Substances
(Published: January 12, 2015)

Heart Defects Study
Heart defects across the lifespan.
(Published: February 10, 2014)

Birth Defects are Common
Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect.
(Published: January 13, 2014)

Pregnant? Don’t Smoke!
Quitting smoking can be hard, but it is one of the best ways a woman can protect herself and her baby's health.
(Published: November 13, 2013)

Newborn Screening: Saving Lives for 50 Years
How much do you know about newborn screening? Take our quiz to find out.
(Published: September 13, 2013)

Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month
A mother shares her son's story
(Published: July 1, 2013)

Birth Defects Quiz
How much do you know about birth defects? Take our quiz to find out.
(Published: January 22, 2013)

Living with a Birth Defect
Read about one family's experience with a birth defect, spina bifida.
(Published: January 15, 2013)

Cleft Lip & Palate: One Mother’s Story
In honor of National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, one mother shares her story.
(Published: July 20, 2012)

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