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'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

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