How to Distinguish Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury

baby getting temperature taken

Bringing a new little one into this world is an exciting and challenging time, and everyone wants a perfect, healthy baby. Unfortunately complications can happen either in the womb or during labor and delivery, and a newborn may suffer a birth injury. When this occurs, not only are parents scared and disappointed but the child may have health issues that require specialized care and therapy, often not just right after birth but sometimes throughout the rest of their lives.

However, determining whether or not your baby has suffered a birth injury is not always as straightforward as it might seem. The time immediately following birth, when a birth injury would first be apparent, is also the time when birth defects are often first apparent. Depending on the particular birth defect and birth injury, it could be difficult to tell the two apart. In general, a birth defect is an illness or condition that occurs while the baby is in the womb, while a birth injury happens at some point while the baby is being born. It is critical to understand and recognize these differences so that proper action can be taken in regards to liability and legal action.

Common Types of Birth Defects

Birth defects occur during the development of the fetus and they can have serious effects on the functional ability, development and health of the baby. The most common types of birth defects include

  • Facial and mouth defects – cleft palate, cleft lip, etc.
  • Genetic defects – down syndrome is the most common
  • Defects of the musculoskeletal system: mainly of the leg and arm
  • Heart defects – atrial septal defect, aortic valve stenosis, etc.
  • Defects of the eyes
  • Intestinal and stomach defects

According to the CDC, about 1 in 33 infants are born with one of these defects. Some defects are mild and will not cause long-lasting consequences. However, some birth defects result in death while others can lead to long-term disabilities. Often the exact cause for a given birth defect is unknown, but things that increase the risks include alcohol, drugs, or smoking during pregnancy, taking certain prescription drugs, a genetic history of birth defects, certain medical conditions, and older mothers.

Types of Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are often the result of complications during birth. The following are common birth injuries:

  • Forceps Marks – Forceps marks will often clear up on their own, but surgery may be needed for severe cases.
  • Bruising – Some amount of bruising is often caused by pressure during the birthing process and will heal on its own.
  • Brachial Plexus Injuries – Brachial plexus injuries result in damage to the nerves that go the arms and hands.
  • Cephalohematoma – Cephalohematoma is a swelling of blood between the skin and skull. It may dissipate on its own.
  • Fractures – Fractures can also occur during birth, with the most common broken bone being the collar bone.
  • Facial Paralysis – Damage to facial nerves may result in temporary or permanent paralysis.
  • Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral Palsy can occur when there is a lack of oxygen to the brain, resulting in underdevelopment of motor skills, and weak or hyperspasmic muscles, as well as other cognitive and developmental difficulties.
  • Asphyxia – Asphyxia occurs when there is a lack of oxygen. It can be temporary or cause permanent nerve or brain damage.
  • Injuries to the Spinal Cord – Injuries to the spinal cord may cause serious neurological problems and paralysis.

While some birth injuries may have been unavoidable due to the medical situation, others may have been completely preventable and could be the result of negligence of the medical staff. Birth injuries can have devastating consequences for the baby and their family. When preventable birth injuries occur it is fair and just for parents to seek legal damages from the hospital or doctor that caused the birth injury. McGehee ☆ Chang, Landgraf, Feiler specializes in birth injuries and we can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve for your baby. Contact us today at 713-864-4000.