Doctors warn of more newborn babies with birth defects in China

Cai Wenjun
Three-child policy and later marriages put older women's babies at increased risk, forum told.
Cai Wenjun

The rate of birth defects in children born in China is 5.6 percent, which means there is an affected child being delivered in the nation every 30 seconds. 

The new policy allowing couples to have three children might result in more mature women falling pregnant and increasing the risk of birth defects, experts and health officials told a maternity and child health forum in Shanghai on Friday.

The best time for women to have babies is between the ages of 23 and 28, Xu Congjian, president of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Hospital at Fudan University, told the forum. 

"With the delaying of marriages in Shanghai, we are seeing a rise in women older than 35 years having babies in our hospital," Xu said.

With later marriages and policies to allow couples to have more children, the percentage keeps rising, Xu said. 

"Women aged 35 or older are considered as risky for pregnancy and their possibility to have defective children is much higher than those who are younger," he said.

According to experts, the likelihood of women having a child with Down syndrome is one in every 300 pregnancies among women in their 20s. It climbs to one in every 50 pregnancies for women aged 45.

In China, the leading birth defect in babies is congenital heart disease, Xu said.

"A trio-level network for inborn defection prevention and control has been established to offer guidance and intervention before pregnancy, during prenatal checks and after-birth screening and treatment."

Zhao Deqiang, president of Shanghai Putuo District Maternity and Child Health Hospital, said grassroots health facilities shoulder a strong responsibility to enhance education and services among local couples and pregnant women.

They should screen those at high risk for senior hospitals to adopt prevention and control measures to ensure the health and safety of pregnant women and children, Zhao said.

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