China Launches Major Database to Analyze Birth Defect Risks

 June 4, 2018

Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital (BOGH) together with 33 other medical institutions from 17 provincial-level regions kicked off an initiative in recent days to build China's first database of birth defect risks, and to map out strategies for monitoring and prevention.

The initiative is designed to collect samples from 500,000 pregnant women across the nation, analyze risk factors for major birth defects, utilize big data technology to find out factors that may cause them, such as the environment, family background and chronic diseases, and establish a risk evaluation system.

It is the largest such research project of its kind ever conducted in China.

China adopted the universal second-child policy in January 2016. The risk of birth defects has increased at a fast pace since a number of women aged over 35 years old have given birth to their second child.

Statistics show that the number of babies born with defects in China is roughly estimated at 900,000 per year.

Birth defects, which refer to the abnormal growth of a baby in the embryonic stage, often lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant deaths. In addition, children with diseases at birth are expected to generate huge financial and medical burdens for their families and the country's healthcare resources.

Although China has made a large stride in the prevention of birth defects over the past years, most of the root causes of birth defects are still unknown and some birth defects can only be spotted at later stages of pregnancy, according to Yue Wentao, chief of the Science and Technology department at BOGH.

Yue said, "If we are clear on the causes, we can inform pregnant women who are at high risk at an early stage of their pregnancy so they can make a choice as early as possible. We can also perform better in the prevention and control of risks in a drive to reduce birth defects."

He continued that BOGH had already started a collection of samples from pregnant women, such as their blood, urine and placenta, in November last year and received the support of a rising number of women.

The biggest challenge lies in whether other hospitals relevant to the project can collect samples under the same standards and procedures in the process, Yue said, and added that BOGH had been providing relevant training and guidance in the meantime.

(Source: bjnews.com.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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