Key facts

  • An estimated 303 000 newborns die within 4 weeks of birth every year, worldwide, due to congenital anomalies.
  • Congenital anomalies can contribute to long-term disability, which may have significant impacts on individuals, families, health-care systems, and societies.
  • The most common, severe congenital anomalies are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome.
  • Although congenital anomalies may be the result of one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional or environmental factors, it is often difficult to identify the exact causes.
  • Some congenital anomalies can be prevented. Vaccination, adequate intake of folic acid or iodine through fortification of staple foods or supplementation, and adequate antenatal care are just 3 examples of prevention methods.


Credit: iStock, MShep2

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Birth defects surveillance training: facilitator’s guide