Introduction: To study characteristics of birth defect cases among live births, stillbirths and abortions in Singapore between 1994 and 2000.
Methods: Index cases for the National Birth Defects Registry (NBDR) were obtained from all neonatal nurseries in Singapore, all hospital discharge summaries, cytogenetic and pathology reports from all pathology laboratories in Singapore, and from the compulsory reporting of all termination of pregnancy cases and stillbirths delivered. Further information was obtained from case notes retrieved from the medical record offices, antenatal clinics, cytogenetic laboratories, pathology departments and the Registry of Births and Deaths. The notified cases (live births, stillbirths and abortions) between 1994 and 2000 were extracted from the NBDR and analysed with regard to ethnicity, maternal age, trend over the seven years and types of birth defects using the British Paediatric Association Classification.
Results: Between 1994 and 2000, a total of 7,870 cases (6,278 births and 1,592 abortuses) were notified, giving a rate of 23.99 birth defect cases per 1000 live births. There was a decreasing trend in birth defect incidence (19.76 to 16.85 per 1,000 live births) among live births and stillbirths and an increasing trend of abortion (3.25 to 7.57 per 1,000 live births) for birth defects. Malays had a higher rate of congenital defects at birth (24.4/1,000 live births) compared to Chinese (18.4/1,000 births). The 25-29 years age group had the lowest overall rate (22.6/1,000 live births) compared to the 19 years and below group at 31.6/1,000 live births and the 45-49 years group at 126.6/1,000 live births. The five most common groups of anomalies (per 1,000 live births) were those of heart (9.07), musculoskeletal (4.98), chromosomal (4.35), urinary (3.12) and nervous systems (2.90). The five most common aborted anomalies (per 1,000 live births) were those of chromosomal (2.40), nervous (1.23), heart (0.95), musculoskeletal (0.85) and urinary systems (0.36).
Conclusion: There was an increasing trend of abortion for birth defects, accompanied by a falling trend in the congenital anomalies of live births. Both extremes of maternal age were at higher risk of non-chromosomal birth defects while advanced maternal age was at higher risk of chromosomal defects.