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1 baby in every 46 born with a congenital anomaly says new report

network would make it possible to fulfil the potential that the existing registers offer for public health, service planning, clinical audit, outcomes monitoring, research and other purposes.

The main findings from today's report are:

  • 2.2% of babies had a congenital anomaly in England and Wales in 2011.
  • The prevalence of major congenital anomalies in England and Wales was higher than those in other European registers.
  • The researchers estimate that there were at least 16,000 babies born with congenital anomalies in England and Wales in 2011.
  • The most common anomalies were congenital heart defects, which affected at least six in 1,000 births. Some cases required major operations and around six per cent of babies born with a heart anomaly died before the age of one.
  • Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, affected one in 1,000 babies; the use of folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant as well as in early pregnancy is known to reduce the risk of this defect.
  • Gastroschisis an anomaly where the intestines develop outside the abdomen affected one in 1,000 babies. Regional monitoring has shown that this condition has become more common in some areas including Wales and that babies born to younger mothers were at greater risk. Gastroschisis was more likely in England and Wales than in other European registers.
  • Over half of all major congenital anomalies were detected during pregnancy.
  • Mothers who were between 25 and 29 years of age had the lowest prevalence for all anomalies. The prevalence was higher in the under-20 age group and considerably higher in the 40 and over age group.
  • The target detection rates were achieved or exceeded for four out of the 11 Fetal Anomaly Screening Program (FASP) anomalies.


Contact: Sarah Cox
Queen Mary, University of London

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