Background: In the United States, birth defects affect approximately 3% of all births, are a leading cause of infant mortality, and contribute substantially to childhood morbidity.
Methods: Population-based data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network were combined to estimate the prevalence of 21 selected defects for 1999-2001, stratified by surveillance system type. National prevalence was estimated for each defect by pooling data from 11 states with active case-finding, and adjusting for the racial/ethnic distribution of US live births. We also assessed racial/ethnic variation of the selected birth defects.
Results: National birth defect prevalence estimates ranged from 0.82 per 10,000 live births for truncus arteriosus to 13.65 per 10,000 live births for Down syndrome. Compared with infants of non-Hispanic (NH) white mothers, infants of NH black mothers had a significantly higher birth prevalence of tetralogy of Fallot, lower limb reduction defects, and trisomy 18, and a significantly lower birth prevalence of cleft palate, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula, gastroschisis, and Down syndrome. Infants of Hispanic mothers, compared with infants of NH white mothers, had a significantly higher birth prevalence of anencephalus, spina bifida, encephalocele, gastroschisis, and Down syndrome, and a significantly lower birth prevalence of tetralogy of Fallot, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, cleft palate without cleft lip, and esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula.
Conclusions: This study can be used to evaluate individual state surveillance data, and to help plan for public health care and educational needs. It also provides valuable data on racial/ethnic patterns of selected major birth defects.