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    Birth Defects Epidemiology & Surveillance
    Mail Code 1964
    P.O. Box 149347
    Austin, TX 78714-9347

    Phone: 512-776-7232
    Fax: 512-776-7330

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About Birth Defects in Texas

Baby with Doctor


What is a birth defect?
Birth Defects in Texas
Mortality of Babies with Birth Defects
Cost of Birth Defects
Causes of Birth Defects

What is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is an abnormality that is present at birth, such as a missing limb, malformed heart, or Down syndrome. Birth defects occur in about 3% of births--more than 122,000 babies in the United States every year. Women of all ages, races/ethnicities, education, and income levels are at risk for having a baby with a birth defect. The causes of most birth defects are unknown but through research and surveillance, causes may be identified and prevention measures developed.

Information about specific types of birth defects from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Birth Defects in Texas

As of 2017, over 24,000 (24,274) Texas babies are born each year with one or more major structural malformations or chromosomal anomalies. For every 10,000 live births, about six births are affected by neural tube defects; 9 babies are born with cleft lip, and 14 are born with Down syndrome.  

>>For more data on birth defects in Texas, see the annual report

Mortality of Babies with Birth Defects

Birth defects are also the leading cause of death among infants in Texas. From 2010 to 2017, they accounted for approximately 26% of all infant deaths before one year of age. Of all live born babies with a birth defect, 3.5% died, and most died before their first birthday (3.2%) 

>>Learn more about birth defects mortality

Cost of Birth Defects

In 2010, birth defects resulted in nearly 42,000 hospitalizations among infants in Texas, with total charges over $2.2 billion, based on hospital discharge data. The average length of stay was 6.2 days and the average cost was $53,000 per hospitalization. While the average cost per hospitalization is comparable to national data, due to the large population of Texas relative to other states, total cost of hospitalization for infants with birth defects is high.

Causes of Birth Defects

Two-thirds of birth defects are caused by as yet unknown factors. Texas has unique concerns about some of the potential causes of birth defects such as those concerning environmental pollutants (hazardous waste sites, air pollution, drinking water contaminants), health disparities (income, ethnicity), and maternal factors (diabetes, obesity).

>>Learn more about preventing birth defects

Last updated February 17, 2022