About Birth Defects in Texas

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 US 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. However, through surveillance and research, causes may be identified and prevention measures developed. 

Birth Defects in Texas

Over 24,000 babies are born each year in Texas 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.  

  • View our Annual Report for more data on birth defects in Texas

Mortality of Infants with Birth Defects

Birth defects are 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%). 

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).

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.