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Birth Injuries and Birth Defects – What’s the Difference?

Birth Injuries and Birth Defects – What's the Difference?You’ve been waiting for this day for months, preparing and nesting. The big day is finally here—you’re going to have your baby. And, as the saying goes, you just want your baby to be healthy. For most of us, that’s exactly what happens. But for a small percentage of mothers, things don’t go as planned, your baby isn’t healthy, and you want answers. What went wrong? Why? Could this have been prevented?

Babies can suffer from two medical conditions at birth: birth defects and birth injuries. These are not the same, but two distinct types of medical issues.

Birth defects

Birth defects happen as a baby develops in the womb. These are called “congenital” defects and are typically detected during pregnancy with routine tests, but some may not show until after delivery. Birth defects are usually caused by genetic abnormalities, but some can result from certain medications or drugs and alcohol.

A birth defect can affect any part of a child’s body, but the most serious center on the nervous system. Common birth defects and conditions include Down syndrome, heart defects, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, cleft palate, or clubfoot.

Birth injuries

On the other hand, a birth injury happens during the birth process and is usually a complication during labor and delivery. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports that out of 4.3 million births in U.S. hospitals, nearly 157,700 mothers and newborns sustain potentially avoidable injuries a year.

There are a variety of potential birth injuries that range from nerve damage, to broken bones, to brain injury. Many brain injuries occur when a baby is deprived of oxygen during labor and delivery. An infant can also suffer a birth injury if medical personnel fail to monitor the mother properly or fail to notice signs of fetal distress. Birth injuries also occur from the doctor using excessive force with delivery tools. Common birth injuries include:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Klumpke’s palsy
  • Fracture
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding in the eyes)
  • Paralysis

Birth defects can be unavoidable, but many birth injuries are likely to have been caused by negligent medical attention. When doctors delay action, fail to notice complications, use unnecessary force during delivery, or use improper tools, they can cause birth injuries that otherwise could have been avoided. Some birth injuries are detectable at birth, but some may not manifest for days, weeks, or even months after they happen.

Not every birth injury is permanent or life-threatening, and not every birth injury is the result of malpractice. Your first priority should be getting the best care for your baby and starting their recovery. However, if you believe your child’s injury was due to negligence, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

At Taylor & Ring, our birth injury lawyers fight for Los Angeles parents whose children have suffered injuries during the labor and delivery process. We advocate for you and your family. To speak to an attorney today, call, 310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.



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