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Birth Injuries vs. Birth Defects: What’s the Difference?

Author
Alicia Betz
December 27, 2020

It comes with the territory of parenthood to worry about the health and safety of your children. From the time you get that positive pregnancy test, you’re suddenly responsible for somebody else’s life. Making it through (ideally) nine months of pregnancy all the way to your child’s birthday is a monumental feat. To have it all end in a birth injury, however, is devastating and terrifying. Many birth injuries are temporary, but nobody wants their newborn baby to suffer even for a second. 

There is a very big difference, however, between a birth defect and a birth injury. Understanding the difference and being able to spot a birth injury quickly can help you advocate for your child and achieve the best possible outcome. Many parents whose children suffer a birth injury seek legal action for justice and to receive compensation for their child’s injury.

birth injury lawyer

What is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury (sometimes called a birth trauma) is an injury that is the result of being born. It is something that often happens during labor or delivery. Common birth injuries include: 

  • Broken collarbones
  • Joint dislocations
  • Lacerations
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Bruising
  • Skull Fractures
  • Facial nerve injuries

Sometimes, a birth injury is an unfortunate consequence of a doctor, nurse, or midwife doing everything he or she can to save the child’s life. The vast majority of providers follow best practices and only want what is best for the mom and the baby. 

However, birth injuries can also be the result of negligence, human error, or mishandling of the baby. For example, a provider may miss signs of a treatable condition or might assist delivery with forceps unnecessarily. 

Although any child can suffer from a birth injury, a few factors make injuries more likely: 

  • A large baby
  • Premature birth
  • Incompatibility with the mother’s pelvis and the baby’s size
  • Prolonged or difficult labor
  • Fetal malpresentation or malposition

Many birth injuries are relatively benign and don’t cause long-term effects for the child. This includes injuries such as lacerations, bruises, or broken bones. Although devastating and distressing, the prognosis for these injuries is typically very good. 

Other birth injuries cause lifelong harm that could result in surgery, physical handicaps, intellectual disability, need for lifelong care, and even death.

birth defect and birth injury

What is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect, on the other hand, is not the fault of the provider. It is a structural change present at birth. Birth defects are common, affecting 1 in 33 babies, and can range from mild to severe and life altering. Common birth defects include: 

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Cleft lip
  • Down syndrome
  • Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida 
  • Limb reduction defects

Sometimes birth defects are identified in utero, but others are not identified until birth or even later. In these cases, it can be difficult to distinguish between a birth defect and a birth injury, particularly if you aren’t informed on the differences. 

Birth defects can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, an infection or fever during pregnancy, or exposure to drugs or alcohol. Often, however, it’s unknown why birth defects occur, and in many cases, there is nothing the mother could have done to prevent them.

What To Do If Your Child Has A Birth Defect Or Birth Injury?

When your child is born and something is obviously wrong, or if something just doesn’t seem quite right, first and foremost, make sure your child has the proper medical care. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion or switch providers if you have concerns about your child’s care.

Additionally, caring for a child with a birth defect or injury can be extremely stressful and emotionally taxing, so finding a caring support system is key. This can take many forms: supportive family members, group or individual therapy, support groups, understanding and supportive specialists, or national organizations that specialize in your child’s specific defect or injury. 

Ultimately, if you believe your child’s birth injury was a result of malpractice, a birth injury lawyer can also help you get compensated for your child’s injury. Financial compensation will ensure you have the financial means to give your child the medical and psychological care he or she needs. 

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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