Why the difference between a birth injury and defect matters in personal injury litigation
Whether you’re having your first baby or have children already, one thing is certain about pregnancy and childbirth: every experience is unique. No 2 births are exactly the same. If you’re expecting a baby, it’s important that you obtain proper prenatal care.
As you entrust your baby’s health, as well as your own, to your medical team, you can reasonably expect that they will follow stringent protocol and act according to accepted safety standards to keep you and your child safe during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum care.
Sadly, there’s always a possibility that birth defects or birth injuries may occur. It’s important to understand the difference between these 2 issues.
What is a birth defect?
A birth defect is a health problem that arises while an infant is still in the womb. Such conditions often form because of genetics. For instance, babies with a specific chromosomal abnormality may develop Down’s Syndrome, a condition that causes significant cognitive delays, muscle weakness and other symptoms in a child.
A heart murmur, clubfoot or spina bifida are examples of birth defects that may be unavoidable for some infants. In some cases, an obstetrician or midwife may suspect that a particular baby will be born with a specific birth defect. Other times, such conditions are only discovered after a baby is born.
In either case, parents of infants with birth defects often need additional encouragement and support to care for their children and help them achieve their full potential in life.
What is a birth injury?
A health condition that occurs during pregnancy or during labor and delivery that is not caused by genetics may, in fact, be a birth injury. Such injuries are often preventable and are caused by medical negligence.
If your child suffers an illness or injury because your obstetrician, midwife or other medical team member was negligent, you may feel intense frustration or even anger, especially if your child will never be able to function independently because of their injury.
Cerebral palsy, Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and stroke are examples of birth injuries that most often occur due to medical negligence. HIE is a condition that results from oxygen deprivation to an infant’s brain. It might occur if, for instance, a doctor fails to act when circumstances suggest a need for an emergency C-section.
The average doctor and obstetrics team understand the importance of closely monitoring your health and your baby’s condition during labor and delivery. If either of you shows symptoms of distress, your medical team needs to know what to do.
What are birth defects? | CDC. (2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 31 January 2020, from www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts.html
Your medical team should never disregard symptoms
During your pregnancy, you likely will have days when you’re not feeling well. You might even experience nausea or swelling in your ankles or weight gain that makes you uncomfortable. While some of these symptoms may be par for the course in pregnancy, at other times, the same symptoms may signify an underlying health condition in you or your child that requires specialized medical attention.
This is why you should always report symptoms to your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room if you are worried that your child is in distress, or that you have developed an adverse health condition, such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. In the past, many preventable birth injuries have occurred when doctors or nurses have disregarded a mother’s or child’s symptoms.
Postpartum support for birth injury vs birth defect
Having a baby is a joyful and exciting time. However, it’s natural to also feel anxious or concerned regarding the possibility that your child might suffer a birth defect or birth injury. If either instance occurs, it’s best to build a strong support network from the start so that you and your family can provide the best care possible for your little one. The type of support and care your child needs will vary depending on whether they have a birth defect or injury.
If your child’s condition is determined to have resulted due to genetics, then it’s likely unavoidable. There are many community support groups available to help parents of children with birth defects. Such defects may affect the organs of the body, such as kidneys, eyes, liver, heart, lungs or spinal cord.
Learning how to care for a child with a birth defect can be daunting. Never hesitate to reach out for support or to speak with other parents whose children have similar symptoms.
If your baby suffered a birth injury that was entirely avoidable but occurred as a result of medical negligence, you have several options available. Start by speaking with a patient advocate and schedule a consultation with an experienced birth injury attorney.
You must act on your child’s behalf to seek financial recovery for losses by filing a personal injury claim in a civil court against the person or people deemed responsible for damages.
If you would like help investigating your child’s birth injury, please contact us. We will be happy to give you a free case evaluation.
We can also point you to great non-legal resources that can help you figure out your next steps.
- Cerebral Palsy
- Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma
- Neonatal Intracranial Hemorrhage (Childbirth Brain Bleeds)
- Hydrocephalus (Extra Fluid in the Brain Cavity)
- Cervical Dystonia
- Hemiplegia (Brain or Spinal Cord Injury)
- Hemorrhagic Stroke
- Neonatal Stroke
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) Brain Injury
- Infant Seizures
- Spastic Diplegia (Spasticity in the Legs)
- Top Risks for Birth Injuries
- G-Tubes for Newborns
- Medical Errors
- Cesarean Section & Birth Injury
- Negligence in Brain Cooling Treatment
- Craniosacral Therapy
- Fetal Intolerance to Labor
- Jaundice (Kernicterus)
- Breech Position
- Placental Complications
- Placental Problems
- Umbilical Cord Problems
- Uterine Rupture
- Cervical Incompetence (Insufficiency)
- Blighted Ovum
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) - Intestinal Inflammation
- Cephalopelvic Disproportion
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
- Amniotic Fluid Embolism
- Birth Injury from Premature Delivery
- Developmental Delays
- Abnormal Cord Insertion
- Infections at Birth
- Chorioamnionitis Bacterial Infection
- Premature birth
- Oxygen Deprivation
- Birth-Acquired Herpes
- Obesity Related Birth Injuries
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction
- Blood Clots During Pregnancy
- Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis
- Myths & Facts About Birth Injuries
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Gestational Diabetes
- Maternal Mortality Risk
- Oligohydramnios (Low Amniotic Fluid)
- Infections During Pregnancy