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Posted on August 22, 2023 in Personal Injury

mother holding her newbornBirth injuries and birth defects can have devastating and lasting effects on newborns and their families. However, some conflate the two concepts and assume either gives rise to a medical malpractice claim. But birth injuries and birth defects are not the same. Critical differences between them can influence whether a family may have a valid medical malpractice claim.

Defining Birth Defects and Birth Injuries

A birth defect is a health problem or malformation a fetus develops in the womb. Birth defects most frequently occur due either to genetics or environmental factors such as the mother’s diet or toxins that the mother ingested or was exposed to. Birth defects can cause developmental, physical, and cognitive disabilities. Doctors can treat some birth defects during pregnancy through medications and surgery.

Conversely, a birth injury refers to physical trauma or medical complications a baby suffers during or immediately after delivery. Birth injuries frequently occur due to negligence by medical staff who provide care during the mother’s pregnancy and attend the delivery.

Common Causes and Types of Birth Injuries in Greenville

Some of the most common causes of birth injuries involve errors by healthcare providers, such as:

  • Failing to monitor mother and baby closely during delivery
  • Failing to intervene when a delivery shows signs of complications, including prolonged labor, maternal exhaustion, dangerously high or low blood pressure, or weak heart rate
  • Not recommending induced labor or cesarean section for high-risk pregnancies
  • Not treating maternal infections before delivery
  • Improper use of delivery-assisting tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors

Examples of birth injuries that infants can suffer include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Birth injury-related epilepsy
  • Facial paralysis
  • Brachial plexus injuries like Erb’s palsy
  • Broken bones
  • Caput succedaneum
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Common Causes and Types of Birth Defects

Birth defects commonly occur due to genetic or environmental factors. Children may inherit genes from one or both parents that trigger a birth defect. Damage to genetic material before conception or early in the embryonic stage may also cause birth defects.

Children may also develop birth defects when exposed to toxins, viruses, or bacteria through their mother. Certain maternal lifestyle factors, such as diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use, can also trigger birth defects. In some cases, birth defects may result from medical negligence when a mother’s doctor prescribes or fails to discontinue a prescription for a drug with a risk of causing birth defects.

Common examples of birth defects include:

  • Down syndrome
  • Congenital heart defects such as patent ductus arteriosus, atrial septal defect, and ventricular septal defect
  • Spina bifida
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Anencephaly
  • Congenital hip dysplasia
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Clubfoot
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Missing or malformed digits or limbs

Key Differences Between Birth Injuries and Defects

The critical difference between birth injuries and birth defects is that birth injuries usually occur due to medical negligence. In contrast, birth defects usually occur naturally due to no one’s fault – though negligence could be a factor in less common cases.

When a birth injury occurs due to a healthcare provider’s negligent error, an injured child’s family can file a medical malpractice claim against the provider. Conversely, families with a child with a birth defect may not have a legal claim unless they can trace the birth defect to the mother’s use of or exposure to pharmaceuticals, consumer products, or potentially toxic materials known to increase the risk of birth defects.

Contact Our Experienced Greenville Birth Injury Attorney Today

If your child has suffered a birth injury due to the negligence of your doctors or delivery team, get legal help to pursue compensation and justice for your child. Contact us online or call The Melonakos Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can discuss your family’s legal options with our experienced Greenville birth injury attorneys in absolute confidence.

Attorney Michael

Michael, a lawyer who honed his skills at premier Atlanta insurance defense firms, specializes in cases involving trucking, auto, and premises liability, adeptly representing both local and national clients.