Birth defects among surviving children under seven years of age in Tianjin, China

Baoguang Wang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality in the developed countries. They are also of increasing concern in many developing countries, such as China. However, prevalence and causes of birth defects in China are inadequately understood. The purpose of the present study was to estimated prevalence of birth defects in surviving children under seven years of age in Tianjin, China and investigate determinants of birth defects in the study area. The present study took place in Tianjin, China in 1986, involving 22,081 surviving children under seven years of age. Children with birth defects were ascertained through physical examinations by physicians during household visits and ascertainment of birth defects was verified through multiple sources. Of 22,081 surviving children, 524 had birth defects (23.7 per 1,000). The study noted a striking discrepancy in the prevalence of birth defects between urban and rural area. The prevalence of birth defects was 16.3 per 1,000 in the urban and 33.2 per 1,000 in the rural area. Using cases of birth defects ascertained from surviving children, a case-control study was carried out. The study observed that first-trimester maternal flu was associated with increased risk of both major and minor birth defects in children after controlling for other maternal factors (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 8.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 4.3-17.3; OR = 3.6, 95% CI = 1.7-7.5). This association could be biased by different reporting of exposure between mothers of children with birth defects and mothers of children without defects. This study indicated that maternal flu was also associated with congenital heart defects and polydactyly after controlling for other maternal factors (adjusted OR = 32.3, 95% CI = 13.3-78.3; adjusted OR = 5.5, 95% CI = 1.1-27.7). The associations remained when affected controls (children with similar birth defects other than congenital heart defects or polydactyly) were used (adjusted OR = 4.3, 95% CI = 1.2-15.3; OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.4-7.9). A weak association between first-trimester vaginal bleeding and selected groups of birth defects was found in this study, but the association may be confounded by other factors. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was modestly associated with cleft lip with or without cleft palate (OR = 1.4, 95% = 0.4-4.9), but the association may be due to chance. Some major limitations in this study warrant caution in interpretation of the findings, especially the causal relation.

Subject Area

Public health|Obstetrics|Gynecology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Wang, Baoguang, "Birth defects among surviving children under seven years of age in Tianjin, China" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9809553.