Better monitoring needed for birth defects

According to new data released by researchers at Queen Mary College, birth defects in the UK are not being adequately monitored.

Better monitoring needed for birth defects

The researchers claim that annually there are more than 16,000 babies born with birth defects.  Statistics from 2010 illustrate that one in 45 babies is born with a defect including Down’s syndrome, spina bifida and heart abnormalities.  The Telegraph reports that birth defects occur as a result of genetic problems or ‘environmental insults’. Since the 1960’s when the thalidomide drug was given to pregnant women, which resulted in hundreds of children being born with limb abnormalities, the number of birth defects has been monitored.  However, the researchers claim that the latest figures released are based on six regional registers covering only a third of the population of England and Wales.

Common problems

Heart defects affected five in every 1,000 births, some of which required surgery soon after birth.   Spina bifida and similar neural tube defects affected one in 1,000 births.  According to the Telegraph, many of these have been prevented by giving pregnant women folic acid.

Concerns

Professor Joan Morris, leader of the study said:

‘We remain concerned that data for substantial parts of the country are not currently monitored, meaning large regional increases in congenital anomalies could go unnoticed and their causes not investigated’.

Source:  The Telegraph, Birth defects ‘not being adequately monitored’,  2nd August 2012

Photography: Alex E. Proimos @Flickr

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