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

What is the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?When a newborn has a medical condition, it is not always clear whether it is because of a birth defect or a birth injury. Birth injuries happen during delivery or immediately following delivery. A birth injury can occur when there is a complication during labor and delivery. The complication can stem from an act of medical negligence or from undetected medical problems with the mother or the child. In some cases, it is unavoidable.

A birth defect arises from harm to an infant that came about during the mother’s pregnancy. The cause of many birth defects is unknown. Some are simply a matter of genetics, and some are caused by factors beyond anyone’s control. The March of Dimes estimates that about 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect each year in the United States.

What are some of the causes of birth injuries?

Birth injuries can be caused by any number of factors, but when they are the result of OB/GYN negligence or medical malpractice, the most common causes include:

  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Failure to monitor and detect fetal distress
  • Failure to diagnose and treat an infection in the birth mother
  • Failure to perform a timely Cesarean section
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Improper handling of the newborn by the doctors, nurses, or staff
  • Excessive force during delivery

Depending on the circumstances, cerebral palsy can be the result of birth or delivery trauma or of genetics. Therefore, in some cases, it can be defined as a birth injury. In other cases, it may be labeled as a birth defect. If you think your child’s condition is the result of negligence, you should speak with an attorney to learn more about your options. You can also download our free report: “When Tragedy Strikes: What Every Tennessee Parent Needs to Know about Birth Injuries.”

What are some examples of birth defects?

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are two main categories of birth defects: structural defects and functional defects. Some examples of structural birth defects include:

  • Cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Heart defects
  • Abnormal limbs, such as a club foot
  • Spina bifida

Functional or developmental birth defects include:

  • Nervous system or brain problems
  • Sensory problems
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Degenerative disorders

Proving fault when a birth injury is a result of caregiver negligence

A birth injury is a form of medical malpractice. When your newborn has a medical condition that was caused by the negligent actions or failure to act of a medical professional, you may be able to take legal action to recover compensation for your losses. To find a doctor or other medical professional at fault for your child’s birth injury, you must be able to prove that their conduct or their failure to act was a breach of the accepted standard of care. Your birth injury lawyer will consult with a medical expert in the same specialty as the negligent doctor or nurse. The expert can then testify about what the expected standard of care is, how your doctor’s actions deviated from that standard of care, and how this deviation caused the injury.

In some cases, the cause of injury might not be negligent care but a defective medical device or a dangerous drug that the mother was prescribed during pregnancy. In cases where the mother was prescribed a drug that caused a birth injury, your lawyer would pursue a products liability claim against the drug manufacturer.

Was your infant’s birth injury preventable? If you are unsure, you may want to contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, we provide support and advice you can trust. We are proud to serve clients throughout Tennessee, and we have offices in Memphis and Jackson. Please call us today at 901-680-9777 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.