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Open Access Research article

Prevalence of birth defects and risk-factor analysis from a population-based survey in Inner Mongolia, China

Xingguang Zhang1, Su Li1*, Siqintuya Wu1, Xiaojin Hao2, Shuyi Guo3, Kota Suzuki4, Hiroshi Yokomichi4 and Zentaro Yamagata4

Author Affiliations

1 Inner Mongolia Medical College, Hohhot, China

2 Inner Mongolia Family Planning Committee, Hohhot, China

3 Hohhot Center of Disease Prevention and Control, Hohhot, China

4 University of Yamanashi, Chuo-city, 409-3898, Japan

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:125  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-125

Published: 18 August 2012



Birth Defects are a series of diseases that seriously affect children's health. Birth defects are generally caused by several interrelated factors. The aims of the article is to estimate the prevalence rate and types of birth defects in Inner Mongolia, China, to compare socio-demographic characteristics among the children with birth defects and to analyze the association between risk factors and birth defects.


Data used in this study were obtained through baseline survey of Inner Mongolia Birth Defects Program, a population-based survey conducted from 2005 to 2008. The survey used cluster sampling method in all 12 administrative districts of Inner Mongolia. Sampling size is calculated according to local population size at a certain percentage. All live births, stillbirths and abortions born from October 2005 to September 2008, whose families lived in Inner Mongolia at least one year, were included. The cases of birth defects were diagnosed by the clinical doctors according to their experiences with further laboratory tests if needed. The inclusion criteria of the cases that had already dead were decided according to death records available at local cites. We calculated prevalence rate and 95% confidence intervals of different groups. Outcome variable was the occurrence of birth defects and associations between risk factors and birth defects were analyzed by using Poisson regression analysis.


976 children with birth defects were diagnosed. The prevalence rate of birth defects was 156.1 per 10000 births (95%CI: 146.3-165.8). The prevalence rate of neural tube defect (20.1 per 10000 births) including anencephaly(6.9 per 10000), spina bifida (10.6 per 10000), and encephalocele (2.7 per 10000) was the highest, followed by congenital heart disease (17.1 per 10000). The relative risk (RR) for maternal age less than 25 was 2.22 (95%CI: 2.05, 2.41). The RR of the ethnic Mongols was lower than Han Chinese (RR: 0.84; 95%CI: 0.80-0.89). The RR of the third and second pregnancy was significantly higher than the first pregnancy while a slight difference between the second and the first pregnancy was also found. Alcohol drinking of mothers, familial inheritance and living area were also found to be related to the occurrence of the birth defects.


Relatively higher birth defect rates were found in Inner Mongolia. This study found that maternal age less than 25, alcohol drinking, familiar inheritance, lower education level of mothers, times of pregnancies and living in rural areas may increase the risk of birth defects. Ethnic Mongols were less likely to have birth defects than Han Chinese.

Birth defects; Prevalence rate; Relative risk; Risk factors