What’s the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?

Published on May 7, 2024 at 3:13 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Sometimes, a baby’s delivery does not go as planned. In these cases, you might hear of the terms “birth injuries” and “birth defects.” While these words are often used interchangeably, they are two separate medical conditions. Below, we’ll share what’s the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect so you can be more informed.

Unfortunately, one of these situations could have been prevented if the mother and baby had received proper medical care. However, due to the neglect of the health care providers, the child is left with serious medical conditions.

At Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, many of our clients have experienced the heartbreak of dealing with the aftermath of medical mistakes that lead to their children suffering birth injuries.

What Are Birth Injuries?

Sometimes, during birth, a baby can experience physical trauma. This can occur before, during, or even after delivery. Birth injuries usually happen when there is some complication during the process. For example, the use of forceps or delivery errors can lead to these medical issues.

While some birth injuries may be immediately apparent, others may go unnoticed until the child experiences a developmental delay later in life.

Unfortunately, medical negligence is often the cause of these birth injuries. Some examples may include:

  • Failure to order a medically necessary C-section: If a C-section is required but not performed immediately, it can lead to harm for both the mother and baby.
  • Improper use of tools: If the staff does not correctly use forceps or vacuums during delivery, these tools can cause serious injuries to the mother and the baby.
  • Failure to monitor: Neglecting to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and detect signs of distress, such as oxygen deprivation, can lead to birth defects.

All these mistakes could lead to cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, and bone fractures.

However, keep in mind that not all birth injuries are caused by the mistakes of medical providers.

Some birth injuries can occur naturally due to other factors like a genetic predisposition or the position of the baby during delivery.

How Birth Defects Differ

On the other hand, birth defects are often functional abnormalities that develop while the child is in the womb. Many times, this occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Birth defects can affect the heart, brain, spine, limbs, and other organs. Genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both are responsible for birth defects. Unfortunately, some defects just happen without any known cause.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects are a serious health issue affecting many babies in the United States. It is estimated that every four and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect, which amounts to nearly 120,000 infants being affected by this problem each year. Birth defects can vary in severity, ranging from mild to life-threatening,

Some of the most common birth defects include:

  • Heart defects
  • Clubfoot
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Down syndrome
  • Brain or spinal defects
  • Limb abnormalities

Many times, when mothers get medical care early in the pregnancy, they have a better chance of avoiding birth defects.

Long-Term Impacts of Injuries a Baby Suffers

Birth injuries have a major impact on a child’s life in the long term. These injuries can lead to lifelong impairments affecting their motor skills, cognitive abilities, and overall quality of life.

These children will require specialized care, therapy, and adaptive tools to help them overcome their impairments and lead a fulfilling life. Over their life, they may need:

  • Physical therapy to improve their coordination and motor skills
  • Speech therapy to help with communication
  • Occupational therapy to improve their ability to perform daily tasks

In some cases, children may need surgery or other medical assistance to address their injuries.

These injuries affect not only the child but also the family. Parents may need to adjust their lives to provide their children with the necessary care and support. Many times, this can lead to substantial medical bills and lost income as they try to support and care for their injured child.

Depending on the type and severity, birth defects can also result in lifelong challenges for the child.

Unfortunately, many of these children are affected by physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.

Often, better health care can help to prevent and detect any of these birth defects. Regular prenatal check-ups, genetic counseling, and better decisions during pregnancy contribute to a lower risk of these medical issues.

Birth Injuries and Defects Can Lead to a Lifetime of Pain

While birth defects can be detected early in pregnancy, birth injuries are often suffered during the delivery process. You might expect to deliver a healthy infant, but instead, the medical providers failed to do their jobs, resulting in injuries. In these cases, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent parties.

The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion, not one marred with sadness and uncertainty about your child’s future due to the mistakes of trusted health care providers. Our legal team is here for you to discuss your legal options for free if you or your child have suffered harm during the childbirth process in Jackson, MS.


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