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Matern Child Health J. 2009 Mar;13(2):164-75. doi: 10.1007/s10995-008-0348-y. Epub 2008 May 17.

The association between major birth defects and preterm birth.

Author information

  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. MHonein@cdc.gov



To evaluate the association between preterm birth and major birth defects by maternal and infant characteristics and specific types of birth defects.


We pooled data for 1995-2000 from 13 states with population-based birth defects surveillance systems, representing about 30% of all U.S. births. Analyses were limited to singleton, live births from 24-44 weeks gestational age.


Overall, birth defects were more than twice as common among preterm births (24-36 weeks) compared with term births (37-41 weeks gestation) (prevalence ratio [PR] = 2.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.62-2.68), and approximately 8% of preterm births had a birth defect. Birth defects were over five times more likely among very preterm births (24-31 weeks gestation) compared with term births (PR = 5.25, 95% CI 5.15-5.35), with about 16% of very preterm births having a birth defect. Defects most strongly associated with very preterm birth included central nervous system defects (PR = 16.23, 95% CI 15.49-17.00) and cardiovascular defects (PR = 9.29, 95% CI 9.03-9.56).


Birth defects contribute to the occurrence of preterm birth. Research to identify shared causal pathways and risk factors could suggest appropriate interventions to reduce both preterm birth and birth defects.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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