Prevalence of congenital anomalies at birth, Canada (excluding Québec)*, 2001 to 2010

*Quebec does not contribute to the Discharge Abstract Database.
Congenital anomalies, sometimes called birth defects, happen during prenatal development. They include abnormalities of structure, function, or metabolism. They are present at birth but may not be diagnosed until later in life. They can result in physical or mental disability, affect a child’s development, and, in severe cases, can be fatal.2

Source: CICH graphic created using data adapted from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), Discharge Abstract Database. Perinatal Health Indicators for Canada, 2013. -accessed August 31, 2017.

For more information on congenital anomalies see Section 5: Congenital Anomalies; Genetics and Paediatric Health Module.

In 2010, there were 11,441 babies born with congenital anomalies in Canada.1

In 2010, the prevalence (number per 10,000 total births) of congenital anomalies at birth was 397 in Canada (excluding Québec).

The rate was 460 in 2001, and declined to 377 in 2007.

1Perinatal Health Indicators for Canada, 2013 June 20, 2017.
2Definition adapted from Health Canada. Congenital Anomalies in Canada — A Perinatal Health Report, 2002. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2002.


Congenital anomalies are a leading cause of death among fetuses and infants3 and can greatly influence quality of life. They are costly to both families and the healthcare system.4

It is encouraging to see that the prevalence of congenital anomalies has decreased in Canada. This can be attributed to a number of factors – including increased awareness of risk factors and prevention (as in the case of folic acid and neural tube defects).

3Lowry R, Sibbald B, Bedard T. Alberta Congenital Anomalies Surveillance System Eighth Report 1980–2007. Government of Alberta Report, 1-45. Canadian Perinatal Health Report 2008 Edition (pp. 317). Ottawa: The Public Health Agency of Canada; 2009.
4Public Health Agency of Canada and the Congenital Anomalies Surveillance Network. Towards Enhanced Congenital Anomalies Surveillance in Canada (pp. 1–14). Ottawa; 2008.

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