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Maternal Autoimmune Disease and Birth Defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study
  • Published Date:
    Nov 2016
  • Source:
    Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 106(11):950-962.

Public Access Version Available on: November 01, 2017 information icon
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  • Pubmed ID:
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  • Description:

    Little is known about the association between maternal autoimmune disease or its treatment and the risk of birth defects. We examined these associations using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a multi-site, population-based, case–control study.


    Analyses included 25,116 case and 9897 unaffected control infants with estimated delivery dates between 1997 and 2009. Information on autoimmune disease, medication use, and other pregnancy exposures was collected by means of telephone interview. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated for birth defects with five or more exposed cases; crude ORs and exact 95% CIs were estimated for birth defects with three to four exposed cases.


    Autoimmune disease was reported by 373 mothers (279 case and 94 control mothers). The majority of birth defects evaluated were not associated with autoimmune disease; however, a statistically significant association between maternal autoimmune disease and encephalocele was observed (OR, 4.64; 95% CI, 1.95–11.04). Eighty-two mothers with autoimmune disease used an immune modifying/suppressing medication during pregnancy; this was associated with encephalocele (OR, 7.26; 95% CI, 1.37–24.61) and atrial septal defects (OR, 3.01; 95% CI, 1.16–7.80).


    Our findings suggest maternal autoimmune disease and treatment are not associated with the majority of birth defects, but may be associated with some defects, particularly encephalocele. Given the low prevalence of individual autoimmune diseases and the rare use of specific medications, we were unable to examine associations of specific autoimmune diseases and medications with birth defects. Other studies are needed to confirm these findings.

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  • Funding:
    CC999999/Intramural CDC HHS/United States
    U01 DD000491/DD/NCBDD CDC HHS/United States
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