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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 defectsoccur 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

 

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