Background: 94% of all birth defects (BD) and 95% of deaths due to the BD occur in low and middle income countries, many of which are preventable. In Tanzania, there is currently a paucity of BD data necessary to develop data informed prevention activities.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted of deliveries identified with BD in the labor ward registers at four Dar es Salaam hospitals between October, 2011 and February, 2012. The birth prevalence of structural BD, case fatality proportion, and the distribution of structural defects associated deaths within total deaths were calculated.
Results: A total of 28 217 resident births were encountered during the study period. Overall birth prevalence of selected defects was 28.3/10 000 live births. Neural tube defects and indeterminate sex were the most and least common defects at birth (9.9 and 1.1/10 000 live births, respectively). Among stillbirths (66.7%) and deaths that occurred within less than 5 days of an affected live birth (18.5%), neural tube defects were the most frequently associated structural defect.
Conclusion: Structural BD is common and contributes to perinatal mortality in Dar es Salaam. More than half of perinatal deaths encountered among the studied selected external structural BD are associated with neural tube defects, a birth defect with well-established evidence based prevention interventions. By establishing a population-based BD surveillance program, Tanzania would have the information about neural tube defects and other major structural BD needed to develop and monitor prevention activities.