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Approximately 4,500 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 (AIHW). This figure corresponds to 1.7% of all births in Australia.
These defects accounted for almost 1 in 5 perinatal deaths and 1 in 4 infant deaths in Australia in 1996 (perinatal deaths = stillbirths and deaths in the first four weeks after birth).
Congenital Malformations Australia 1995 and 1996, from the Institute's National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, provides national data on trends in incidence and deaths due to birth defects, and on terminations of pregnancy for malformations.
The report also presents malformation trends by maternal age, State or Territory of the infant's birth, and for single and multiple births.
AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit Director Dr Paul Lancaster said that the reported number of pregnancies terminated in Australia because of fetal defects had decreased from 722 in 1994 to 527 in 1996.
He also said that data showed a declining trend in neural tube defects (spina bifida and anencephalus) during the last few decades, with slight fluctuations in recent years.
'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 in Congenital Malformations Australia 1995 and 1996 include:
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