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

As everyone always says, “We don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, we just want our baby to be healthy.” And, after months and months of anticipation, that’s usually exactly how it goes—a normal delivery of a healthy infant. However, in a small percentage of births, things unfortunately don’t go as planned and your child is not, in fact, healthy. And you want and need answers. What went wrong? When did it go wrong? Could it have been prevented? Who is to blame?

Babies can suffer from two medical issues at birth, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two of them: birth injuries and birth defects.

Birth defects

Birth defects occur as a baby develops in the womb. They’re commonly detected—or should be detected—during pregnancy, although some may not show up until after delivery. Birth defects are typically caused by a genetic abnormality, but can also sometimes be caused by certain medications or drugs and alcohol.

Birth defects can occur in any part of an infant’s body or brain, but the most severe focus on the nervous system. Common birth defects include heart problems, Down syndrome, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, cleft palates, or clubfoot.

Birth injuries

On the other hand, birth injuries occur during the birth process—labor and delivery. Out of 4.3 million childbirths in United States hospitals, nearly 157,700 mothers and newborns sustained potentially avoidable injuries.

There are many different kinds of birth injuries, ranging from mild to serious. Babies can be born with broken bones or meconium aspiration syndrome, or with nerve or brain damage. Many of these injuries occur when an infant is deprived of oxygen during delivery. If a medical professional fails to monitor the mother’s labor or any signs of fetal distress properly, or use excessive force during delivery, both the mother and child could potentially suffer injury. Common birth injuries include:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Klumpke’s Palsy
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding in the eyes)
  • Fracture
  • Paralysis

While birth defects are typically unavoidable, birth injuries are likely to have been caused by a failure in medical care. Delay to act, failure to notice complications, forceful delivery, or use of improper tools can all cause birth injuries that were otherwise avoidable. Some birth injuries are immediately noticeable, but some may not be detected until days or weeks after delivery.

You should remember, as a parent, that not all birth injuries are life-threatening. But with any injury, the most important thing is to get the best care for your child and ensure that they are as healthy as possible as they begin their life.

At Crandall & Pera Law, we fight on behalf of Kentucky and Ohio parents whose children have suffered a birth injury. For compassionate and strong advocacy, please call our Ohio office at 877-686-8879, or in Kentucky at 877-651-7764. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

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