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Geography Impacts Survival Rates Of Babies With Birth Defects

According to new research, the of are directly influenced by where they were born.

The results of the study were recently published in The Lancet. The researchers, hailing from the , considered 4,000 babies with birth defects born in 74 different countries and at 264 hospitals across the world.


In conclusion, they found that babies with congenital anomalies involving the intestinal tract were more likely to survive if born in a high-income country. According to , which relied on a definition provided by the World Bank, high-income countries are any nations with a gross national income per capita greater than $12,065.

Specifically, babies with this type of defect born in a developed country had a 1 in 20 chance of mortality. This is compared to a 1 in 5 chance for babies born in a middle-income country, and a 2 in 5 chance for those delivered in a low-income country.

Birth defects are any sort of physical anomaly that’s present at birth. It can affect all areas of the body, including the heart, brain, and even feet. They vary in severity. According to the , certain factors raise the risk of babies being born with a defect, including:

  • Higher maternal age (over 34)
  • Family history of birth defects
  • Taking certain medications in pregnancy
  • Prenatal , tobacco, or drug exposure
  • Certain medical conditions (, uncontrolled diabetes, etc.)

Gastroschisis is a type of birth defect that occurs when an infant is born with their intestines or other organs outside of the body, often protruding through a hole near the belly button. Babies with this condition often require surgery immediately after birth to correct the problem. It can lead to long-term health issues, like:

  • Indigestion
  • Trouble nursing, eating
  • Difficulty absorbing nutrients

The CDC warns this condition affects 1,871 babies born in the United States each year. While the exact cause of this birth defect is unknown, it’s believed changes in genes or chromosomes may play a part.

There are certain factors that increase the likelihood a baby will be born with gastroschisis, including:

  • Born to a teenage mother
  • Alcohol, tobacco use before or during pregnancy

The researchers emphasize that the reason with intestinal-related defects have a higher chance of fatality in middle and low-income countries is a lack of access to proper medical care, specifically surgeries. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Inadequate post-operative care
  • Low-skilled anesthetic support
  • Limited testing, less chance of diagnosis
  • Poor access to intravenous nutrition, ventilation

The researchers added their findings should encourage governments to take urgent action to improve access to care for babies with such conditions.


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