Birth Defects

At a glance

Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths, accounting for 20% of all infant deaths. Most birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. However, we don’t fully understand how these factors might work together to cause birth defects.

Close-up view of pregnant woman's belly while in a hospital bed

We Track That

The Tracking Network provides data on twelve birth defects. These defects were selected because all are potentially linked with suspected environmental risk factors. Also, these defects are included in most birth defects monitoring programs.

Health departments funded by the CDC Tracking Program provide the birth defect data found on the Tracking Network.

Types of Data

For each birth defect indicator on the Tracking Network, there are two different prevalence measures.

  • Average Annual Number of Cases among Live Births over a 5-year Period
  • Prevalence per 10,000 Live Births over a 5-year Period

Prevalence measures the number of birth defects occurring in a population. It is the best way to report information about birth defects. This measure can be used to track the number of birth defects within a state. Under advanced options, data on birth defects can be further refined by infant gender, maternal age group, and maternal race/ethnicity.

Birth defect data are available at the county level. However, the Tracking Network does not have data for all states. And for some states, only certain counties have data. In addition, some states have more years of data available than others.

The Tracking Network has data on the following birth defects:

  • Anencephaly
  • Cleft Lip with Cleft Palate
  • Cleft Lip without Cleft Palate
  • Cleft Palate without Cleft Lip
  • Gastroschisis
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
  • Hypospadias
  • Limb Deficiencies
  • Spina Bifida without Anencephaly
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Transposition of the Great Arteries (Vessels)
  • Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome)

Learn more about these birth defects.

Access the Data

Use the Data Explorer to create custom maps, tables, and charts.

View data in simple Quick Reports.

Get machine-readable data from the Application Program Interface (API).

Data in Action

The Tracking Network's birth defects data can be used to make comparisons within a state; birth defect data from different states should not be compared.

Tracking birth defects in a standard way over time can help us with the following actions.

  • Evaluate changes in distribution of birth defects by place and time
  • Asses birth defects prevalence by infant or maternal characteristics
  • Tailor prevention activities for specific populations and communities
  • Help direct resources and services to affected babies and families

Learn More

Birth Defects