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J Neurol Sci. 2004 Jan 15;217(1):65-72.

Birth order and neural tube defects: a reappraisal.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, ML 2182, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


There is evidence that late birth order is associated with some complex disorders. For neural tube defects (NTDs) there is no consensus as to whether first or increased birth order is associated or not. A meta-analysis of published data on NTDs was carried out to ascertain whether there is an increased risk for children first born or of high birth order to have NTDs. All data available with information regarding the frequency of live births and NTDs cases by birth order (1, 2, 3, and 4 or more) were included in the analysis. Effect sizes calculations were performed. Children with higher birth order are more likely to have spina bifida but not anencephaly. This same effect was also seen for all NTDs combined, which probably reflects the association with spina bifida. These results suggest the compilation of anencephaly and spina bifida data can be the explanation for the controversies seen in the literature.

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