What’s the Difference Between a Birth Injury and Defect?
While birth injuries and birth defects may sound similar, there are several important factors that separate them, and understanding these differences can allow you to pursue the correct treatment.
Understanding the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury can also help you to understand if they could have been preventable. If your medical providers acted negligently at any point, and this is likely the cause of the injury or defect, then you may have grounds to hold them accountable, and pursue compensation to cover the costs of your child’s treatment, suffering, and potential loss of enjoyment of life.
Here at Peter Angelos Law, we handle birth injury medical malpractice cases in Maryland. We can help you investigate what happened so you can fully understand what caused your child’s injury or defect. If there was an at-fault party, we will help you hold them accountable.
Birth Injuries vs. Birth Defects
A birth injury, often known as a labor or delivery error, is an injury that your child has sustained during the labor and delivery process. Common birth injuries occur when your medical providers act negligently during crucial moments during the birth. Things like forced deliveries, the use of vacuums, and a failure to convert to c-section in a timely manner are all common causes of birth injuries.
When these injuries are caused by incompetence or negligence, then they could have been prevented, and this means you may be eligible to consider a medical malpractice case.
Birth defects happen during your pregnancy and if they occurred because of negligence, they are usually referred to as prenatal errors. Unfortunately, birth defects are a risk that all unborn children face and can happen without any negligence. However, one of the duties that your medical providers owe to you during your pregnancy is to carry out adequate fetal monitoring and screen both the baby and mother to see if they have any indicators that increase their risk of suffering from a problem.
Birth injuries may be apparent immediately, but some of them may not be diagnosable until later on in the child’s life.
Birth defects, on the other hand, are usually apparent immediately. One of the reasons that adequate fetal monitoring is so important during pregnancy is that many birth defects can be diagnosed using tests and monitoring, such as fluid and blood tests or ultrasounds. That means that if they were not detected, there was likely an inadequate level of fetal monitoring.
Common Birth Defects
Some of the most common birth defects, many of which should have been diagnosed during your pregnancy through fetal monitoring, include:
- Abdominal defects such as gastroschisis and omphalocele
- Blood clotting disorders like hemophilia
- Brain defects like microcephaly
- Cleft lip or palate
- Congenital dislocated hip
- Down syndrome
- Ear defects like anotia or microtia
- Eye defects like anophthalmia and microphthalmia
- Esophagus defects like esophageal atresia
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Heart defects such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome and pulmonary atresia
- Muscle defects like muscular dystrophy
- Neural tube defects like spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele
- Skull defects like craniosynostosis
- Urogenital defects like renal agenesis and bladder exstrophy
- Sickle cell disease
Causes of Birth Defects
Compared to birth injuries, which usually happen from trauma to the child during the birth process, birth defects can develop at any point of the pregnancy. However, most birth defects occur during the first three months, as this is when the babies’ organs are fully developing.
While less common, defects can still develop after six months as well, which is why fetal monitoring during the entire pregnancy is so important.
Sadly, there is still no medical explanation for many of the birth defects that can occur in unborn children. There are, however, certain factors that may be linked to a higher risk of the child developing a birth defect.
Risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes include alcohol use, drug use, and smoking during pregnancy; certain infections such as Zika virus, cytomegalovirus, rubella, and varicella; having a fever of over 101 degrees due to heat exposure during pregnancy; maternal medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity; mother is over the age of 35 (advanced maternal age); and use of certain medications during pregnancy.
There is also a lot of proof that defects can run in the family, and if someone in your family has been born or given birth to a child with a defect, there is a higher risk for your child. This is something that your medical providers should ask about, allowing them to pay higher attention and to screen and monitor the child for those conditions.
Birth Defect Prevention
Due to the fact that we still have little understanding of the causes of most birth defects, prevention is hard. There are certain tips that your medical providers may tell you, such as avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking. They may also tell you to avoid saunas and hot tubs and inform your doctor of all medication you are on.
Birth Injury Prevention
Because birth injuries happen during the birth process, their prevention is ultimately up to the competency of your medical providers. Brain damage, cerebral palsy, and fetal distress are often preventable birth injuries, and if your child has suffered these injuries, you may wish to consult with an attorney who can investigate to see if there was negligence involved.
Peter Angelos – Medical Malpractice and Birth Injury Attorneys
Here at Peter Angelos Law, we handle birth injury cases on behalf of numerous clients. No parent should have to go through the trauma and emotional distress of watching their child suffer.
If your child’s injury could have been preventable, you have every right to be furious, and we can help you hold those responsible accountable. Whether your child suffers oxygen deprivation from inadequate fetal monitoring, causing birth defects, or they have been injured from the physical trauma of the birthing process, contact us today for a free consultation.
Call us at 410-705-2405.