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How Birth Injuries Differ From Birth Defects

January is “Birth Defect Awareness Month.”  We previously covered this topic in an earlier blog post. We wanted to use this opportunity to bring to light another devastating epidemic in our country: birth injury. 

It is easy to be confused by the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. While both are devastating, they are fundamentally very different. Birth defects are present at birth and are usually the result of a genetic condition or a toxin the mother was exposed to during pregnancy. A birth injury, on the other hand, happens during the birthing process and a perfectly normal, healthy infant (or mother ) may become the victim of physical injury as a result of either natural selection or negligence by a healthcare practitioner.

While a birth defect can happen to any infant who is exposed to toxins or is a carrier of a genetic disorder, statistics show that most birth injuries happen to babies born to mothers between 25-34 years old that required the use of birthing tools. Conversely, infants and mothers who were not subjected to delivery with birthing tools or medical interference had 30% fewer birth injuries than those who did.  Injury to the mother during birth happened to around 23% of women who had instrument-assisted vaginal deliveries as opposed to only 8% of women who did not and 0.6% of cesarean section deliveries. This shows that the employment of birthing tools, while occasionally necessary, increases the risk for a birth injury.

Sometimes injuries are minor and resolve on their own.  Severe birth injuries, though,  can be permanent and will require a lifetime of care.  Studies conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)  show that in 2006,  around 157,700 birth injuries could have been avoided. This means 157,000 families that thought they were going to bring home a healthy baby had to plan for a life with a disabled child.

Most Common Types Of Birth Injuries

  • Brain Damage
  • Hypoxia or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Klumpke’s Palsy
  • Shoulder Dystocia
  • Paralysis or damage to the spinal cord
  • Infant Torticollis 
  • Ptosis (droopy eyelids)
  • Broken bones

Cerebral Palsy As A Result Of Birth Injury

Around 800,000 people are currently living in America with Cerebral Palsy (C.P.). Each year, an additional 10,000 babies are born with C.P., many of which were the result of a birth injury.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to an infant’s developing brain. Many times it is caused by lack of oxygen to the brain during or right before delivery. Adequate fetal monitoring is required to detect changes to the infant’s vital signs so a medical professional can react in a timely manner in order to prevent birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.  

Jaundice is a common condition in newborns and easily treated if accurately diagnosed by medical professionals and promptly addressed.  A failure to diagnose jaundice can cause a severe condition called Kernicterus which causes brain damage. One result of Kernicterus is Cerebral Palsy which could have been prevented by a timely diagnosis of Jaundice.

What’s Next?

Were you or your baby injured during delivery? Did a healthcare professional fail to diagnose a condition in your infant such as Jaundice? You may have a personal injury case.  Call Basch & Keegan to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys understand and respect your needs;  they will walk you through the process every step of the way.  Still in the hospital or home on bed rest?  We can tell you right over the phone if you have a case. 

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