Birth Defects

In 1994, CDC collaborated with the Mississippi Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate reports of adverse birth outcomes among members of two Mississippi National Guard Units that served in the Gulf War. This investigation found no increase above expected rates in the total number of birth defects or in the frequency of premature births and low birth-weight babies. The frequency of other health problems, such as respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and skin diseases among children born to these veterans also did not appear to be elevated.


Penman A, Tarver RS, Currier MM. No evidence of increase in birth defects and health problems among children born to Persian Gulf War veterans in Mississippi. Military Medicine 1996;161:1–6.

In 1995, the Naval Health Research Center asked CDC to assist in a study of Goldenhar syndrome. Goldenhar syndrome is characterized by abnormal prenatal development of facial structures. Two clinicians from CDC reviewed birth records of 75,414 infants conceived after the Gulf War and born in military treatment facilities (34,069 infants born to Gulf War veterans and 41,345 born to nondeployed veterans). They identified five infants with Goldenhar syndrome who were born to Gulf War veterans and two infants born to nondeployed veterans. Because of the small number of cases found by the study, the statistical power of the study was low. It was not possible to conclude solely from this study whether there is a higher or lower risk for Goldenhar syndrome among infants born to Gulf War veterans.


Araneta MR, Moore CA, Olney RS, Edmonds LD, Karcher JA, McDonough C, et al. Goldenhar syndrome among infants born in military hospitals to Gulf War veterans. Teratology, 1997;56:244–51.

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Page last reviewed: October 29, 2010 (archived document)