In the last two to three decades, increasing rates of gastroschisis but not of omphalocele have been reported from different parts of the world. The present study represents a register containing 469 children born with abdominal wall defects based on data retrieved from 20 birth cohorts (1970-89) in three nationwide registries. A tentative estimate of the completeness as regards identification of liveborn and stillborn infants is a minimum of 95% and 90% respectively. All cases were reclassified to 166 cases of gastroschisis, 258 of omphalocele and 16 of gross abdominal wall defect. The average point prevalence at birth of gastroschisis was 1.33 per 10 000 live and stillbirths. During the first decade, an increase in prevalence occurred culminating in 1976, followed by a decrease reaching its initial value in 1983 and then a new increase. Overall, no significant linear trend could be demonstrated for the entire period. The average point prevalence at birth for omphalocele was 2.07 and for gross abdominal wall defect 0.12 per 10 000 live and stillbirths with no significant change in the period. The geographical distribution of gastroschisis and omphalocele showed no difference per county.