Baby with birth defects born every three days

Birth defects main cause of 104 infant deaths between 2003 and 2012

Major congenital anomalies occur at the rate of 3% of all births or one in every 33 babies born. In Malta, an infant with one or more major birth defects is born every three days.

Birth defects, the department of health information and research said, are a main cause of infant mortality: between 2003 and 2012, birth defects led to 104 infant deaths, accounting for 43.5% of all infant deaths in Malta.

Among those children who survive, several may suffer of disabilities. Over the 10-year period there were a total of 1,184 babies registered with major anomalies. Each baby may have one or more anomalies.

To increase awareness of birth defects, an International World Birth Defects Day was celebrated for the first time 3 March 2015 and every year thereafter.

The World Birth Defects Day is being supported by the Malta Congenital Anomalies Registry. 

Congenital anomalies, also commonly referred to as birth defects, include structural defects (congenital malformations, deformations, disruptions and dysplasias) and chromosomal abnormalities. They are a major cause of fetal, neonatal and infant mortality and are among the top causes of potential years of life lost. Children who survive may suffer lifelong disabilities.

Most birth defects occur in the first stages of pregnancy, or even earlier.

"Although several congenital anomalies have no known cause, we know today that several exposures such as certain medications and alcohol may lead to certain birth defects. Methods of primary prevention are available, these include: maintaining healthy nutrition, preconception folic acid supplementation, control of maternal infections and chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and epilepsy," the department said.

"It is important to have accurate, reliable surveillance systems for congenital anomalies in order to provide epidemiological information, plan health service requirements, monitor for teratogenic exposures and to assess effectiveness of prevention."

Annual Mortality Report 2013

During the year 2013, 3,236 Maltese nationals passed away. There were 1,636 male deaths and 1,600 female deaths in residents, a decrease of 110 males and 73 females over the previous year. Deaths in residents included twelve residents who died abroad. In addition, 77 non-residents died in Malta. The remainder of this report concentrates on deaths in residents unless otherwise specified.

There were also 19 fetal deaths (stillbirths 22+ weeks gestation).

The crude death rate for males was 775 deaths per 100,000 and for females it was 754 deaths per 100,000. The overall crude death rate was 764 per 100,000 population.

The period between 1980 and early 1990s has shown a steady decrease in the crude mortality rate which has reached a steady level after that.

Life expectancy shows a steady gradual increase over the whole period from 1980 to 2013. The age-standardised death rate (SDR) has been showing a decreasing trend over the whole period from 1980-2013 (figure 2), despite the relative stable crude mortality rates from the early 1990s, indicating that people are dying at older age groups.

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