Screening and diagnosis of prenatal and neonatal diseases to provide timely intervention in the fetal and neonatal period would help children enjoy normal growth and a healthy life. (Photo: VNA)

Thanh Hoa (VNS/VNA) - Every 13 minutes a child is born with congenital anomalies in Vietnam, putting a burden on their families and the health sector as well as affecting the quality of the population.

The statistic was released at a conference on the importance and benefits of screening and prenatal and neonatal diagnosis held on August 27.

Associate Professor Nguyen Viet Nhan from the Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy’s centre for prenatal and neonatal screening said that about 1.5 million children are born in the country each year, and between 1.5 and 3 percent suffer from congenital disorders or malformations.

Of more than 41,000 children with birth defects, about 1,700 children – accounting for 11 percent of the total – do not survive. The rest struggle with birth defects for the rest of their lives.

Nhan said to reduce the burden on families and society, it was necessary to boost the number of prenatal and neonatal screenings to detect, intervene and treat genetic disorders in the fetal and neonatal stages.

Reports from the Ministry of Health showed that the most frequent disorders are Down syndrome affecting between 1,400 and 1,800 children, Edwards syndrome affecting about 250 children, neural tube defects affecting between 1,000 and 1,500 children, and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) defects affecting up to 30,000 children.

The common causes of birth defects are genetic abnormalities, toxin exposure from the environment during pregnancy, drug consumption by the mother during the first three months of pregnancy and diseases contracted by the mother during pregnancy.

Le Canh Nhac, Deputy Director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said screening and diagnosis of prenatal and neonatal diseases to provide timely intervention in the fetal and neonatal period would help children enjoy normal growth and a healthy life.

Screenings play an irreplaceable role in the early detection of congenital disorders and malformations for timely interventions.

At the Hanoi-based Central Maternity Hospital and Hue Medical and Pharmacy Hospital, 4.5 percent and 4.3 percent of children, respectively, are found to have congenital anomalies thanks to pre-birth screening and diagnosis.

Dr. Luong Thi Lan Anh of Hanoi Medical University said pre-birth screening and diagnosis must be implemented during pregnancy, especially in the first six months. People could get access to the service at all health clinics and hospitals.

Addressing the population quality of Vietnam, Nhac said improvement of population quality was among the top priorities of the ministry. However, the differences in access to healthcare services for pregnant women in different regions remained a problem.

Nhac said the programme on population quality and reproductive healthcare in the 2011-2030 period would focus on consultancy and providing health check-up services for married and pregnant women to reduce birth defects among children.

By 2030, the ministry aims to have 70 percent of pregnant women screened for at least four of the most common congenital diseases and 90 percent of newborns screened for at least five congenital diseases.-VNS/VNA