The impact of consanguinity on neonatal and infant health

Early Hum Dev. 2010 Nov;86(11):737-41. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2010.08.003. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Marriage between biological relatives is widely popular in many parts of the world, with over 1000 million people living in countries where 20-50+% of unions are contracted between couples related as second cousins or closer. Consanguinity is, however, a controversial topic, in part due to public misunderstanding, complicated by often exaggerated past estimates of the adverse health outcomes. While some consanguineous couples are at high risk of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder, they are a small minority. Thus a multi-population meta-analysis has indicated an excess infant death rate of 1.1% in the progeny of first cousins, and even this figure may be compromised by inadequate control for non-genetic variables. The benefits as well as the disadvantages of consanguineous marriage are assessed and discussed, with specific consideration given to the health of migrant communities in Western countries, among whom first cousin marriage remains preferential.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Consanguinity*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Fetal Mortality
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant Welfare
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / etiology*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / mortality
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Reproductive Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Survival Rate