What Is the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?

Bringing a newborn into the world is cause for celebration, but not all births go smoothly. If an infant has a medical condition, it can be a stressful experience for a parent. Sometimes there are difficulties understanding if the condition is a result of birth injury or birth defect, further heightening the level of stress in the situation.

Birth Defects

Birth defects arise from complications with the mother’s pregnancy. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development identifies two major categories of birth defects: structural and functional.

Structural birth defects are those that relate to the structure of body parts. Common types of structural birth defects include heart defects, neural tube defects, and abnormal limbs like cleft foot, cleft lip and cleft palate.

Functional birth defects relate to problems with how a body system or part functions. They are also known as developmental birth defects. Some examples include sensory problems, like blindness and deafness; degenerative disorders, which involve a steady decline of health over time; metabolic disorders, which cause complications with the body’s processing of chemicals; and nervous system and brain problems, like Down Syndrome.

Many birth defects do not have a recognizable cause. Some occur due to complications during pregnancy and others through genetics. If a doctor’s actions during pregnancy cause a birth defect, such as prescribing a medication, then it may qualify as a case of medical malpractice.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are medical conditions that arise from complications during childbirth. There are many types of birth injuries, some of which can occur without any human error. Some common causes of birth injury due to doctor error and medical malpractice include:

  • Failure to monitor fetal distress
  • Failure to treat a birth mother’s infection
  • Improper handling of the newborn by medical staff
  • Improper use of vacuum extractors or forceps
  • Not performing a timely Caesarian section
  • Oxygen deprivation of the infant
  • Use of excessive force during delivery

Some conditions, such as cerebral palsy, can be either a birth defect or a birth injury. In these cases, it is best to receive additional medical guidance and speak to an attorney who can help you understand your legal rights.

Seeking Compensation for Birth Injuries

Making negligent decisions during childbirth can lead to infant injuries, as well as trauma to the mother. The additional medical fees and emotional distress can both count toward the amount of compensation you may receive from a medical malpractice claim.

When a medical practitioner’s decisions cause birth injuries, it is a case of medical malpractice. Following through on such a claim will require you to provide evidence that the caregiver’s actions did not meet the standard of care, which you can establish by consulting another medical professional in the same field.

Seeking compensation for birth defects can be more involved, as many defects are the result of other causes, such as genetics. However, if your doctor prescribed a treatment or medication that caused the birth defect, then you may be able to pursue compensation.

Medical malpractice cases have a statute of limitations. Tennessee law allows for one year from the date of the injury to file a claim, including birth injuries. For conditions that may not be noticeable until later, the statute of limitations is up to one year from the discovery of the condition.

Consulting an attorney can help you determine who is at fault for your child’s birth injury, filing a complaint at your local courthouse, and assessing the damages. With a lawyer handling the court process, you can focus on your baby’s recovery.