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1 in 46 Babies Born in England and Wales has Birth Defect

Sep 09, 2013 11:25 AM EDT

(Photo : sabianmaggy/ flickrcreative commons)

One out of every 46 babies born in portions of England and Wales is born with congenital anomalies such as malformed limbs, Down syndrome and heart and lung conditions, according to research published by Queen Mary University of London.

Researchers collected a data set via birth records from six regional registers in throughout England and Wales, with data coverage estimated to be 36 percent of births in the two nations. The study, which used data collected between 2007 and 2011, is being called the most up-to-date and comprehensive ever done of birth defects in the UK

The congenital defects assessed by the survey were broad, covering heart and lung defects, Down syndrome, neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and limb malformations such as club foot.

According to the research, at least 16,000 babies (2.2 percent) born in England and Wales in 2011 had a congenital anomaly, which is a figure higher than what's present in other European countries.

Congenital heart defects were the most common birth anomaly, accounting for at least six in 1,000 births. Of those born with heart defects, 6 percent died before turning one year old.

Gastroschisis, a condition in which the intestines develop outside of the abdomen, appears to be more common in England and Wales than in other European countries, affecting one in 1,000 babies with the data pointing to a growing number of cases in the study area.

Mothers between the ages of 25 and 29 years old showed the lowest instances of babies with congenital anomalies. Congenital anomalies were prevalent in babies of women under the age of 20 and older than 40.

Although the data was pulled from national registers, the researchers were quick to note that it was incomplete.

"We remain concerned that data for substantial parts of the country, including London, are not currently monitored, meaning large regional increases in congenital anomalies could go unnoticed and their causes not investigated," said Joan Morris, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University. "Currently there are no registers in London, the South East, the North West and East Anglia."

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