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Am J Public Health. 1997 Sep;87(9):1467-71.

Risk for neural tube defect-affected pregnancies among women of Mexican descent and white women in California.

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March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, Emeryville 94608, USA.



This study investigated a previously reported 50% or more increased risk for neural tube defect-affected pregnancies among Latina women compared with White women.


Data were derived from a population-based case-control study of fetuses and live-born infants with neural tube defects in a 1989-through-1991 California birth cohort. Interviews were conducted with mothers of 538 (88% of eligible) infants/fetuses with neural tube defects and mothers of 539 (88%) nonmalformed control infants.


The risk for a neural tube defect-affected pregnancy was approximately twice as high among women of Mexican descent than among White women (odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.5, 2.8). The odds ratio for Mexico-born Mexican women compared with White women was 2.4 (95% CI = 1.7, 3.2), whereas the risk for US-born women of Mexican and other racial/ethnic descent was not substantially higher than that for Whites. The higher risk among Mexico-born Mexican women was not attributable to differences in numerous studied parental characteristics and exposures.


Given that nearly 20% of all California births are to Mexico-born Mexican women, the increased risks observed are relevant to the population burden of neural tube defects.

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