Difference Between Birth Injury and Birth Defect
While the terms “birth injury” and “birth defect” are sometimes used interchangeably, there is actually an important difference between the two. A birth defect is a condition that forms during a mother’s pregnancy before the baby is born. A birth injury occurs during the labor or delivery process and causes a condition or disability for an otherwise healthy newborn.
Birth defects may be the result of a teratogen, or an agent that disturbs the development of the embryo or fetus. Common teratogens include prescribed medication, illegal drugs, or alcohol abuse. Genetics may also predispose a baby toward a birth defect.
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Not all birth injuries are caused by negligence. Complications can naturally accompany any woman’s delivery. Birth injuries can be caused by:
- Overly large babies
- Premature deliveries
- Inadequate size and/or shape of mother’s pelvis for a vaginal birth
- Prolonged labor
- Abnormal positioning of the fetus (breech births)
Severe Birth Injuries Caused by Medical Professionals
However, negligence on behalf of the medical staff can lead to severe birth injuries, including:
- Caput Succadaneum: the swelling of the newborn’s scalp typically caused by pressures on the baby’s head, including pressure from a vacuum extraction procedure
- Erb’s Palsy: nerve damage that occurs when the baby’s neck or shoulder is stretched too far
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy: a lack of oxygen to the newborn’s brain, causing brain cells to die and resulting in developmental problems, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and even death
- Birth Fracture: a broken clavicle or collarbone or skull fracture
- Cerebral Palsy: a group of conditions of the brain and nervous system that impairs movement, cognition, sight, and hearing
- Bleeding in the Brain
- Facial Nerve Injury
Who Is Responsible?
For a birth injury lawsuit to succeed, you must be able to prove that the medical practitioner or facility failed to act in a manner in which a reasonably skilled and knowledgeable healthcare professional would have, and that it was the actions (or lack thereof) taken by that individual or facility that directly caused the harm to the baby.
Common medical practitioner mistakes made before and during childbirth include:
- Failing to diagnose the mother’s hypoglycemia, Rh incompatibility, or other conditions
- Failing to diagnose ectopic pregnancies (when the fetus develops in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus)
- Failing to diagnose a contagious disease such as genital herpes
- Prescribing overdoses of medicine
- Using excessive traction when the child appears to be stuck in the birth canal
- Failing to perform a caesarean section if the baby is losing oxygen during the delivery
- Failing to react quickly to signs of fetal distress
- Failing to anticipate complications caused by a tangled umbilical cord
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