CHAPEL HILL - A new study of nearly a half million girls and women shows that those born with birth defects are less likely to survive, especially during the first years of life, than others born without them. Survival is lowest for such catastrophic conditions as anencephaly, hydrocephalus, other syndromes and central nervous system irregularities and highest for cleft palate and lip, clubfoot and malformations of skin, hair, nails and genitals.
Women with birth defects also are generally less likely to have children than others but face an increased risk of bearing offspring with the same problem, the research shows. Investigators found no higher-than-normal chance that an infant would have a different birth defect from his or her mother.
A report on the findings appears in Thursday's issue (April 8) of the New England Journal of Medicine. Authors are Drs. Rolv Skjaerven and Rolv T. Lie of the University of Bergen and Dr. Allen Wilcox, chief of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' epidemiology branch and a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health faculty member..
The three studied 8,192 women and adolescent girls with birth defects and 451,241 others listed in the Medical Birth Registry of Norway as being born between 1967 and 1982. Although impaired physical development during pregnancy is known to boost a baby's chance of death after birth and during infancy, investigators conducted their analysis since less is known about later survival and reproduction. Also, no one has assessed the risk of dissimilar defects in the children of such women in detail.
Among subjects with defects, 80 percent survived to age 15 compared with 98 percent of those without birth anomalies, researchers found. Among surviving subjects, 53 percent of those with defects bore at least one infant by age 30 compared with 67 percent of those born normal.