/ Blog/ Do You Know the Difference Between a Birth Defect and Birth Injury?
Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy. Every parent wants to trust doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to provide the best care at every stage of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. In a perfect world, there would be no accidents and everything would go smoothly. However, we don’t live in that perfect world, and things don’t always go according to plan when a child is born.
Birth defects and injuries are among the most tragic things to happen at a time when you should be overcome with joy. When children are born with an illness or injury, it could lead to lifelong medical complications, care, expenses, and early death. Their physical development could also be impacted—a complicated birth or delivery can result in anything from a failure of muscle and bone development to emotional or psychological problems. How do you know when your own child’s health condition is a birth defect or a birth injury? It all depends on where the injury originates.
With a birth defect, the health condition or illness is something that happens while the infant is in the womb before delivery. Often, birth defects are based on the DNA of the baby; Down Syndrome, cleft palate, and heart murmurs are among the conditions that can result from the genetic material of the baby and can’t be prevented. Outside factors can also have an effect on the child prior to labor and delivery. If the mother was on medication, sick, or exposed to harmful environmental conditions, it could have an impact on the child’s development before birth. The biggest thing to remember about birth defects is that they emerge during the pregnancy and not labor.
Birth injuries are different in that they happen while the mother is in labor or in the process of delivery. Sometimes there are unavoidable complications, but many birth injuries are preventable. An incorrect method of delivery, or an improper or excessive use of tools—such as extraction forceps or vacuums—can end up hurting the baby. Birth injuries can lead to a lack of oxygen to the child’s brain (hypoxia), cerebral palsy, brachial palsy, and other distress on vital organs. Some of these injuries are obvious immediately, but some might not manifest until later on in the child’s life.
These may seem like fairly clear-cut differences when looked at through a legal lens. If a birth defect couldn’t be prevented, but a birth injury could, then it seems clear that you can only get recourse if your child was injured during labor. This is not always the case, however. Sometimes, these factors can overlap, and medical malpractice can occur in less-obvious forms. In the case of a birth defect caused by a medication, a doctor could be found negligent for prescribing the medication if he knew the risks. If the doctor looks at a chart or ultrasound improperly and misses a crucial detail—the size of the baby, the size of the birth canal, the condition of the umbilical cord or placenta—then they missed a detail that could possibly have changed the outcome of the birth. If they failed to perform the proper tests to make sure the child was healthy before birth, there could also be liability on that front.
There’s no rulebook for parenting, and knowing the right thing to do can be hard when something so heartbreaking happens to your family. If you feel that your health care providers either caused your child to become injured or failed to prevent a tragedy, you could have a case for a lawsuit. Through a free consultation, the medical malpractice attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham may be able to help guide through your next steps. Contact our malpractice attorneys online or by phone at 317-920-6400 or 800.525.8028 today.
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