Every year around 12,000 babies are born in New Hampshire. Almost 3% are born with major birth defects.
New Hampshire is on a short list of states that thoroughly track birth defects and investigate their causes. Funded by grants from the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program works to help federal regulators understand the impact that birth defects have on families, and connects affected parents with local resources.
Common Birth Defects In New Hampshire
According to the NHBCP’s records, hypospadias is the most common congenital abnormality affecting children born in New Hampshire. This condition, present only in males, occurs when the urethra’s opening is not located at the tip of a child’s penis, but on the underside of the shaft.
1 out of every 280 babies in New Hampshire are born with hypospadias.
Down syndrome, a genetic anomaly that can cause numerous physical and cognitive differences, is also relatively common. Around 1 out of 1,100 babies are born with Down syndrome in New Hampshire. Nationwide, about 1 in 700 children are born with the condition.
Birth records logged in New Hampshire reveal that around 20% of all babies delivered in state are born to mothers age 35 years or older. The National Birth Defects Prevention Study has found that these children are between 3 and 6 times more likely to be born with Down syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “60% of women in New Hampshire report not taking folic acid.” Folic acid is a form of Vitamin B that has been repeatedly found to reduce the risk of birth defects, most notably congenital anomalies affecting a baby’s brain and spine.
Cleft Lip & Palate
Like Down syndrome, New Hampshire’s incidence of congenital orofacial clefts is lower than that of the US overall. These conditions, including cleft lip and palate, which can occur separately or together, involve facial and oral tissues that fail to fuse properly during early fetal development.
1 in 2,000 babies born in the state have an isolated cleft palate, a separation or gap in the roof of the mouth. Across the country, 1 in around 1,510 children are born with a cleft palate every year.
1 in 1,300 newborns are born with a cleft lip, with or without cleft palate, in New Hampshire every year. Nationwide, 1 out of every 900 babies are born with a cleft lip.
Orofacial Clefts By County
NHBCP’s detailed approach to regional data gives us an in-depth look at how common orofacial clefts are in different counties. As we’ll see, the rates vary dramatically and several counties with extremely low populations, including Sullivan, Belknap, Merrimack and Rockingham, have surprisingly high cleft lip and palate rates.
In Belknap County, around 472 babies are born every year.
- 1 in 474 are born with cleft palate (without cleft lip)
– that’s around 1 baby every year
- 1 in 3,316 are born with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate)
– that’s around 1 baby every 7 years.
About 330 babies are born in Carroll County each year:
- 1 in 2,300 are born with cleft lip
-that’s around 1 baby every 7 years
- Cleft palate is so infrequent in Carroll County that the NHBCP hasn’t logged any data on the defect.
Cheshire County is the birthplace of around 3,700 babies every year:
- 1 in 461 are born with an isolated cleft palate
– that’s around 8 babies every year
- 1 in 1,230 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 3 babies every year
Around 700 babies are born in Coos County each year:
- 1 in 1,200 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 1 baby every 1.5 years
- 1 in 350 are born with a cleft palate
– that’s 2 babies every year
In Grafton County, there are about 1,900 live births every year:
- 1 in 4,500 babies are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 1 baby every 2.5 years
- 1 in 3,500 are born with a cleft palate
– that’s around 1 baby every 2 years
About 5,500 babies are born each year in Hillsborough County, home to Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city and the tenth largest in New England:
- 1 in 1,600 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 7 babies every 2 years
- 1 in 3,500 are born with an isolated cleft palate
– that’s about 3 babies every 2 years
In Merrimack County, which includes Concord, New Hampshire’s capital, around 1,500 babies are born every year:
- 1 in 790 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 2 babies each year
- 1 in 931 are born with a cleft palate
– that’s around 3 babies every 2 years
Around 1,900 newborns are delivered in Rockingham County every year:
- 1 in 970 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s almost 2 babies every year
- 1 in 900 are born with an isolated cleft palate
– that’s around 4 babies every 2 years
In Strafford County, there around 1,270 live births each year:
- 1 in 1,100 babies are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 1 baby every year
- 1 in 3,000 babies are born with a cleft palate
– that’s less than 1 baby every 2 years
About 200 babies are born in Sullivan County each year:
- 1 in 370 are born with a cleft lip
– that’s around 1 baby every 2 years
- 1 in 300 are born with an isolated cleft palate
– that’s about 2 babies every 3 years
Congenital Heart Defects
Heart defects are a large, varied category of congenital abnormalities, which includes both rare conditions like hypoplastic left heart syndrome and more common defects like ventricular and atrial septal defects.
The Birth Conditions Program only tracks a small portion of these anomalies. NHBCP currently records four of these abnormalities:
- Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
– around 7 babies are born every with TOF in New Hampshire
- Atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD)
– about 6 babies are born in New Hampshire with an AVSD each year
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)
– around 4 babies are born each year with HLHS in New Hampshire
- Transposition of Great Arteries (TGA)
– about 2 babies are born in New Hampshire every year with TGA
What Causes Birth Defects?
New Hampshire’s Birth Conditions Program reports that “the causes of about 70% of birth defects are unknown.” But in saying this, researchers mean isolated abnormalities in individual babies. In recent decades, the general causal factors behind most birth defects have come to be understood fairly well.
Researchers now believe that the vast majority of congenital abnormalities are caused by either anomalous genetic material or environmental factors, dangerous substances to which a mother is exposed that come to affect her unborn child’s development. Some environmental factors that may lead to babies developing birth defects are found as toxins in the air and water. But some prescription drugs, even ones that are commonly prescribed to pregnant women, may increase the risk of certain birth defects as well.
Has Zofran Been Linked To An Increased Risk Of Birth Defects?
Zofran is an anti-nausea drug that has been approved as a safe and effective treatment in cancer patients undergoing therapies that can cause extreme nausea and vomiting, as well as for patients who experience severe nausea after surgery.
But many physicians in the US and abroad have been prescribing Zofran for morning sickness, too. Zofran has never been approved for use in pregnancy, and its safety during fetal development has never been established. In fact, four major epidemiological studies have linked Zofran’s active ingredient, ondansetron, to significantly increased risks of cleft palate, congenital heart defects and kidney malformations.
Zofran.Monheit.com is sponsored by a multi-state alliance of attorneys to inform the public about an ongoing litigation surrounding Zofran and its association with birth defects.
Why Are US Parents Suing Zofran’s Manufacturer?
At least seven American families have now filed lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company behind Zofran. No claims have yet been filed in New Hampshire.
These parents all have children with major birth defects who were born after their mothers were prescribed Zofran during the first trimester, when the risk of an unborn child developing a birth defect is highest. Their allegations are similar.
They say that GSK promoted Zofran to doctors as a safe treatment for morning sickness, without first seeking FDA approval for its use during pregnancy or conducting clinical trials to investigate its effects on pregnant women and unborn children. Notably, the US Department of Justice leveled the same allegations against the company back in 2012. At the time, the federal government charged GSK for promoting Zofran for “off label,” or unapproved, uses, including as a treatment for the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. The company continues to deny wrongdoing in connection with Zofran, but ultimately settled the government’s case for $3 billion.
Moreover, these plaintiffs say that GSK was actually aware of Zofran’s potential to increase the risk for birth defects, but continued its alleged “off label” promotion regardless. If their allegations are true, GlaxoSmithKline may have failed to report significant safety information to the FDA and warn the public of the risks that Zofran presents during early pregnancy.
Can New Hampshire Families File Zofran Birth Defect Lawsuits?
If you took Zofran during the first trimester as a treatment for morning sickness, and then delivered a child with major birth defects, you may be eligible to bring a legal claim for damages against GlaxoSmithKline.
The attorneys behind Zofran.Monheit.com have joined forces to investigate claims against GSK and advocate for the rights of parents and birth defect survivors nationwide. Our coalition is led by Monheit Law, a firm based in Pennsylvania, and while our lawyers are not admitted to practice in New Hampshire, we have attorneys licensed in Delaware, the state in which GlaxoSmithKline’s US operation is headquartered. As a result, we may be able to bring a claim on your family’s behalf in that state. We may also be able to recommend counsel based in New Hampshire.
We are currently offering free consultations to any parties interested in learning more about the ongoing Zofran litigation or their own case eligibility. Call 1-877-620-8411 or complete our online contact form to speak with an experienced attorney at any time, day or night. We’re here to answer your questions 24 / 7.