Approximately 4,300 (1.6%) Australians are born each year with significant birth defects diagnosed at birth or soon afterwards, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
These defects accounted for 1 in 5 perinatal deaths and 1 in 3 infant deaths in Australia in 1994 (perinatal = stillbirths and deaths in the first four weeks after birth).
Congenital Malformations Australia 1993 and 1994, from the Institute's National Perinatal Statistics Unit, provides national data on trends in incidence and deaths due to malformations, and on terminations of pregnancy for malformations.
The report also presents malformation trends by maternal age and country of birth, State or Territory of the infant's birth, and for single and multiple births.
Dr Paul Lancaster, AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit director, said that 718 pregnancies were terminated because of fetal defects in Australia in 1994, an increase from 421 in 1991.
Dr Lancaster said that the data available, although incomplete, showed a declining trend in neural tube defects (spina bifida and anencephalus).
'We need better data to interpret this trend, and to establish whether policies aimed at preventing spina bifida and anencephalus have been effective.'
Other findings of the report include:
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