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900,000 babies born with birth defects in China annually

About 900,000 babies are born with birth defects in China per year, health authorities said on Thursday as they called for increased premarital medical checkups.

According to China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the incidence of birth defects in 1996 was 87.8 per 10,000 people, but it grew to 149.9 per 10,000 people in 2010 from 120 per 10,000 people in 2003 when China abolished compulsory premarital checkups.

In response to its rapidly ageing population, China started allowing married couples to have two children in 2016, ending the controversial one-child policy implemented decades ago to rein in a surging population.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 60 per cent of women eligible to have a second child are aged 35 years or older. The number of older women becoming pregnant will exceed 3 million each year from 2017 to 2020, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

This has also resulted in an increased risk of birth defects, it said.

China has designated August 25 as its disability prevention day to spread information about disabilities and help the public better identify risks.

There are more than 85 million disabled people in China.

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