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What’s the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury?

A woman endures a difficult labor before delivering her childBringing a child into the world is a joyful but often anxious time for upcoming parents. The months of anticipation and waiting are over, and it’s time for a new life to emerge.

There’s a lot of stress, too, over the health of the new child, especially if the birth didn’t go as planned. When something goes wrong, being able to spot the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury can make a big difference in making sure that your child, and your family, is taken care of.

What Is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is any form of developmental abnormality or congenital defect present in a baby at birth. Birth defects can affect any organ or system in the body. For example, the heart, lungs, intestines, spinal cord, brain, eyes, ears, bones, limbs, or fingers and toes may be affected. More than one organ or system may be affected, depending on the specific type of birth defect or the presence of multiple defects.

Birth defects may be caused by genetic or inherited conditions, or fetal exposure to toxic substances, but in many cases, the exact cause is unknown. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 3 percent of babies born in the United States every year, or one out of every 33, are born with birth defects.

What Is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury, as opposed to a birth defect, is any form of injury that occurs to the baby sometime immediately before, during, or after being born. Birth injuries, unlike defects, are preventable in many cases, depending on the specific circumstances of the birth process. Some of the most common types of birth injuries to occur include:

  • Joint dislocations.
  • Broken clavicles (collar bones).
  • Cranial (head) trauma or skull fractures.
  • Brain damage or cerebral palsy caused by hypoxia or anoxia (lack of oxygen).
  • Brachial plexus, a type of injury to the upper arm.
  • Erb’s palsy, or permanent nerve damage to the upper arm.

When birth injuries happen, they often happen as the result of using tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors. Birth injuries may also happen if the child is mishandled during or after birth, or if the person delivering the child makes an error. Medication errors during childbirth may also result in injury to a newborn.

Some birth injuries may be the result of a failure to monitor and diagnose a treatable condition during pregnancy, such as a vitamin deficiency, anemia, or spina bifida, a condition linked to a deficiency in folic acid. If a doctor failed to test for and treat these common issues and the child is born with one of these conditions, it could be considered medical malpractice, and the family may be able to recover damages in a malpractice suit.

Get Legal Help for Birth Injuries

Birth injuries can be severe, with life-long consequences for the child, and can affect the entire family, too. The injured child may need life-long support, including extensive therapy, multiple surgeries, and special education to have the best possible chance to succeed in life. A medical malpractice lawsuit will allow you to seek the compensation for your child to ensure that his or her needs are met.

If you suspect that your child’s injury was the result of medical malpractice, speak to a personal injury attorney with experience handling birth injury cases as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to assess your situation and help you explore your legal options sooner, rather than later. Not only does Texas maintain strict statutes of limitation for medical malpractice cases, but medical malpractice cases are complex and take time to litigate. The faster you seek legal help, the faster your child can get the help that he or she needs.

Wayne Wright LLP has been standing up for the rights of injured children and their families for decades, and we’d like to help you get the justice that your family deserves. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced legal professionals and talk about your child’s situation, call us by phone, send an email with our contact form, or click the live chat box on this page right now.