Is There a Difference Between Birth Injuries & Birth Defects? | Scott Goodwin Law

Is There a Difference Between Birth Injuries & Birth Defects?

by / Wednesday, 01 November 2023 / Published in Birth Trauma
Close up of a baby's hand near its face.

When a child is born with an injury or birth condition, “birth injury” and “birth defect” are two terms that might be used interchangeably. But these are actually two different types of conditions with some important differences to be aware of. 

Birth Injuries vs. Birth Defects

One key difference between a birth injury and a birth defect has to do with when the condition develops. Birth injuries refer to injuries sustained around the time of birth – either during labor and delivery or very shortly after birth. Very often, birth injuries are caused by things like complications with the placenta or umbilical cord, a lack of oxygen, or physical trauma. They can also be the result of a doctor failing to quickly react to signs of distress, using too much force during delivery, or failing to properly treat maternal medical conditions. Some common types of birth injuries include bone fractures, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and brachial plexus injuries. In far too many cases, birth injuries could have been prevented. 

On the other hand, a birth defect is a condition that a baby develops during pregnancy, typically very early in pregnancy. In many cases, it’s not clear what causes a birth defect. Birth defects can potentially be caused by several different factors, including genetics, maternal medical conditions, infections during pregnancy, and the use of certain medications during pregnancy. Some examples of birth defects include cleft palate, muscular dystrophy, neural tube defects, and Down syndrome. 

Given the difference in when birth injuries and birth defects occur, there can be differences in when they’re detected. Very often, birth defects are detected prior to delivery, but they can also be discovered shortly after birth. But with birth injuries the time it takes to become aware of the injury depends on the nature of the injury. In some cases, they can be noticeable shortly after birth, but it’s also possible that signs of a birth injury might not begin to show until the child is a few years old. Some types of birth injuries affect a child’s development so it’s not unheard of for parents to not realize their child has a birth injury until they start missing developmental milestones.

Can Doctors be Responsible for Birth Defects?

While birth defects are often unpreventable. However, there are some situations when a birth defect could be considered medical malpractice, such as if a doctor prescribes a medication known to cause birth defects to a pregnant woman. 

Contact a Michigan Birth Injury Lawyer

If your child was injured around the time of birth, don’t hesitate to contact a birth trauma lawyer for help. Even if your child is a few years old, you may still have legal options. At Scott Goodwin Law, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer who has helped other families of birth trauma victims. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Image: Hu Chen / Unsplash