Association of low maternal education with neural tube defects in Colorado, 1989-1998

Public Health. 2002 Mar;116(2):89-94. doi: 10.1038/


Despite increasing use of folate prior to conception, neural tube defects remain among the most common birth defects in the United States. The Study objective was to investigate the maternal and child characteristics associated with having an infant born with a neural tube defect (NTD) in Colorado between 1989 and 1998. Data were derived from a population-based case control study of all live-born infants in Colorado from 1989 to 1998 (n=551,285), utilizing birth certificate records and a statewide neural tube defect registry. Chi-square analysis and multiple logistic regression were used to assess the strength of association between sociodemographic characteristics and the main outcome measure, the birth of a child with an NTD. Final analysis was limited to those children born to mothers who themselves were born in either the United States or Mexico. In this ten-year period, there were 251 confirmed cases of NTDs in Colorado, 224 of whom were born to women who were born in either the United States or Mexico. Significant bivariate associations were found between NTDs and the following: female sex of the child, lower maternal age, maternal country of birth in Mexico, and maternal education less than tenth grade. The single strongest predictor of having a child with an NTD was low maternal education (adjusted OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.1). Low maternal education is an important predictor of having a child with an NTD. In order to further reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, interventions should target women of low educational status.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / education*
  • Mothers / education*
  • Neural Tube Defects / ethnology*
  • Neural Tube Defects / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / ethnology*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors