What Is the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?

The joy parents experience at their baby’s birth can be ruined if they discover their child is seriously ill, especially if the condition cannot be cured and will have long-term consequences on the baby’s health.

Two types of health problems a newborn can have are a birth injury and a birth defect. It's important to understand the difference between the two, especially if you believe your infant’s medical condition was caused by a health provider's negligence.

What Are Birth Trauma Injuries?

A birth trauma injury occurs during the birth and delivery process and is often the result of a mistake by a medical provider. This can make the baby’s injuries all the more tragic, because the baby probably would have been born healthy if there hadn't been an error. Birth injuries include clavicle fractures, broken bones, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and brain damage.  

Cerebral palsy is a birth injury or brain malformation that can occur while the baby is developing during pregnancy, during birth, or once the baby is born. It can be caused for a variety of reasons, such as genetics, environmental factors, poor development of nerve cell coverings while the fetus’ brain is developing, and events in the birthing process, such as ruptured blood vessels or a cut off of oxygen to the brain. In addition, trauma, infections, and a lack of oxygen after birth can cause cerebral palsy.

Medical malpractice can also cause cerebral palsy if the doctor fails to:

  • Treat a mother’s infection, like meningitis, during pregnancy
  • Perform a caesarean section on time
  • Recognize and take action if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck during the birth process

In addition, head trauma can occur if the doctor applies too much pressure on the baby’s head or neck.

Erb’s palsy is generally caused by a difficult birth for a variety of reasons. One way is if the baby travels down the birth canal at an awkward angle, which causes the brachial plexus nerves—nerves in the spinal cord that travel to the arms—to suffer damage. It can also be caused in a breech birth where the brachial plexus nerves are stressed when the baby’s arms are stretched overhead during the delivery process.

If too much pressure is applied to the head when the baby’s shoulder becomes caught on the mother’s pelvic bone, this can also cause Erb’s palsy. However, doctors should know techniques to avoid this head trauma while safely dislodging the baby’s shoulder.

Doctors can make additional errors that lead to the baby suffering birth trauma. Common ways medical malpractice leads to injuries include:

  • Birthing instrument use. In a forceps- or vacuum-assisted delivery, a doctor using too much force with medical equipment can cause a baby to suffer nerve or brain injury.
  • Delayed or prolonged labor. When a woman has a delayed or long labor, her doctor must properly monitor for fetus distress, lack of oxygen, and other medically-threatening conditions. If a doctor fails to do this, the baby could suffer serious injuries leading to permanent disabilities or death.

What Is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is a medical condition that occurs during pregnancy while the fetus is in the uterus. Birth defects can cause both physical and mental disabilities that can affect an infant throughout his life. Common birth defects include congenital heart defects, Down Syndrome, and Spina Bifida.

Birth defects can be genetic. In other cases, a mother’s actions, such as drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, can cause her baby to have a birth defect. Taking certain prescription medications during pregnancy can also cause birth defects.

If medications are the cause of an infant’s birth defect, a health care provider may be accountable for medical malpractice. The pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug could also face liability if it failed to properly warn of the drug’s side effects.

Let Us Help Obtain Compensation for Your Baby’s Birth Injury or Birth Defect

While compensation for your infant’s injuries won't erase the serious illnesses that he has to live with forever, it will help ensure he has the medical care and other support he could need. It's up to you to pursue your baby’s claim. To learn how our dedicated and experienced birth injury attorneys can help, call our office to schedule a free consultation.

Pellegrino Certa
Pittsburgh Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorney
Be the first to comment!
Post a Comment