Key Facts:

  • Every year it is estimated that approximately 133 million babies are born around the world. About 4 million of them (1 in 33) are born with a serious structural birth defect.
  • In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in infants and young children.
  • Babies who survive may have a good quality of life with appropriate treatment or care, however many infants are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities.
  • Although about 50% of structural birth defects cannot be linked to a specific cause, there are some known causes or risk factors.
    • Non-genetic known causes or risk factors can be mitigated or removed before conception or early pregnancy to prevent some birth defects
    • For example: insufficient folate status, poorly managed diabetes, obesity, lack of protection against infectious diseases, some teratogenic medications, smoking, alcohol, and other risk factors.
  • It is necessary to expand birth defect surveillance, prevention, care, and research worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has an overview of the impact of birth defects globally and the importance of prevention, detection, treatment, and care. This is available at www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/congenital-anomalies (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish)