• neural tube defects;
  • birth prevalence;
  • live birth;
  • stillbirth;
  • India


Neural tube defects are one of the most prevalent congenital anomalies. Data on the total birth prevalence, live birth and stillbirth prevalence of neural tube defects in India are lacking. The objective of this study is to conduct a systematic review of birth prevalence of neural tube defects in India and compare it with existing estimates.


A PubMed search identified 463 articles, of which 19 articles were eligible for inclusion in the review. Meta-analysis was used to estimate the overall birth prevalence of neural tube defects and to investigate the variation among studies identified by this review.


The 19 articles reported a total of 308,387 births, among which 1310 cases of neural tube defects were reported, giving an overall birth prevalence of 4.1 per 1000 (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.1–5.4). The live birth and stillbirth prevalence of neural tube defects was 1.3 per 1000 births (95% CI, 0.9–1.8) and 1.7 per 1000 births (95% CI, 0.7–4.0), respectively. Among the neural tube defects, the reported prevalence of anencephaly was highest at 2.1 per 1000 births (95% CI, 1.6–2.8) followed by spina bifida at 1.9 per 1000 births (95% CI, 1.4–2.7).


The systematic review suggests that neural tube defects contribute to a significant number of live births and stillbirths in India, suggesting that preconception folic acid supplementation should be an essential element of reproductive health services. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 97:437–443, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.