The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of congenital anomalies in 19 areas from 13 European countries. A total of 291,126 births were surveyed. On average most of the anomalies were recorded in livebirths. The total prevalence of congenital anomalies was 21.8 per 10,000 births. Four groups of congenital anomalies were of particular note in the consideration of geographic variations: neural tube defects, cleft lip, limb reduction defect and Down syndrome. For neural tube defects, 24 cases per 10,000 were recorded in the British Isles whereas only 9.6 cases per 10,000 were registered in Continental Europe. Cleft lip had a much higher prevalence in Groningen (The Netherlands) and in Odense (Denmark) than in the other European countries under study. The prevalence of limb reduction defect was high in Bilbao (Spain), in Odense, in Strasbourg (France) and in Groningen. In the study population the prevalence of Down syndrome ranged from 5.6 to 21.3 per 10,000 livebirths.