CDC Lists Top 6 Types of Birth Defects

Cleft Palate, Down Syndrome Lead the List

Jan. 5, 2006 -- New numbers from the CDC show America's leading types of birth defects.

Birth defects of the face and mouth -- specifically, cleft palate and cleft lip -- were most common. Every year, more than 6,700 babies are born with one or both of those treatable conditions.

Down syndrome, a genetic condition, came in second. More than 5,400 babies per year are born with Down syndrome, according to the CDC.

Researchers looked at the U.S. rate of birth defects from 1999-2001.

Here's the list of the six major types of birth defects covered in the CDC's report, along with the number of babies per year born with those conditions:

  • Genetic defects (Down syndrome and other conditions): 6,916 babies per year
  • Mouth/facial defects (cleft lip and/or cleft palate): 6,776 babies per year
  • Heart defects: 6,527 babies per year
  • Musculoskeletal defects (including arm/leg defects): 5,799 babies per year
  • Stomach/intestinal defects: 2,883 babies per year
  • Eye defects: 834 babies per year

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant death and contribute substantially to long-term disability, the CDC reports.

How Common Are Birth Defects?

About 3% of U.S. babies -- around 120,000 newborns per year -- are born with any of 45 types of birth defects, says the CDC.

The new figures, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, cover 18 out of those 45 types of birth defects.

Some states don't track birth defects, so the CDC's latest statistics are national estimates. Data came from 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

The CDC calls for states to do a better job of tracking birth defects.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 6, 2006; vol 54: pp 1301-1305. News release, CDC. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Dental Health: Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate." WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Down Syndrome -- The Basics."
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