'One in 40' babies have defect

As many as one in 40 babies is born with a birth defect in England and Wales, according to the most comprehensive study to date. The most common anomalies are congenital heart defects.

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Rate of birth defects 'similar to Europe'

Joan Morris, professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary University, says that the rate of birth defects has stayed "pretty much the same" and is similar to that of Europe.

Overall, our impression is that we're pretty similar to Europe although we have higher rates of abdominal defects, particularly among younger mothers.

People feel this is lifestyle related. Evidence suggests that risks are increased, particularly in lower body mass index mums - the thinner teenage pregnancies - but we can't say that's definitely the cause.

We also have higher rates of neural tube defects than other countries but it's not exactly clear why.

– Joan Morris, Queen Mary University

Study: Hearth defect most common anomalies in babies

The most common form of anomalies in newborn babies in 2011 were congenital heart defects.

Here are the numbers of babies estimated to have been born with various anomalies in 2011:

  • Congenital heart defect - 4,461 (28% of all babies born with a defect)
  • Defects of the nervous system - 1,739 (10.1%)
  • Problems with the digestive system - 1,223 (7.7%)
  • Cleft lip or palate alone or alongside other defects - 1,143 (7.2%)
  • Down's syndrome - 1,973 (12.4%)

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Study: As many as one in 40 babies born with defect

As many as one in 40 babies is born with a birth defect in England and Wales, according to the most comprehensive study of the issue to date.

Heart defects are the most common form of anomalies in babies, the research found Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The most common anomalies are congenital heart defects, which affect at least six in every 1,000 babies.

Those suffering heart problems can require major surgery, and around 6 percent of babies with a heart defect die before their first birthday.

The report, by researchers at Queen Mary University of London in conjunction with theBritish Isles Network of Congenital Anomaly Registers, collated data from six regional registers, giving a national coverage of 36% of all births.

Researchers then provided estimates to flesh out the other regions of England and Wales.

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