The birth of a child is an occurrence to look forward to with great joy. Yet, sometimes a child is born suffering from either a birth defect or a birth injury. You may have heard about both birth injuries and birth defects, but be unclear about how the two differ. Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably, but doing so is incorrect. The disparities between birth defects and birth injuries are distinct.
What is a Birth Defect?
When a baby develops a problem while it is still inside the uterus, we call the problem a birth defect. Around three percent of babies born in the U.S. have some type of birth defect. While many birth defects are minor and harmless, some are severe, causing approximately 20 percent of infant deaths or creating lifelong disabilities. Birth defects are not due to anything that happens during the birth process. Some examples of common birth defects are:
- Down syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Cleft palate
- Certain heart abnormalities
- Metabolic abnormalities such as phenylketonuria (PKU).
Birth defects can be caused by either genetic (inherited) causes or non-genetic causes. Risk factors for having a child born with a birth defect are:
- Family history of certain birth defects, due to either defective or missing genes or chromosomes
- Environmental factors such as untreated infections, rubella or German measles, or the use of drugs or alcohol while pregnant
- A maternal age of 35 or over
- Poor prenatal care
- Usage of some medications known to carry risks of birth defects.
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is harm that occurs to the infant during the birth process. A baby can be perfectly normal before being born but emerge from the birth process damaged. While many birth injuries are minor or temporary, some are significant and permanent, causing lifelong disability and suffering. It is estimated that from one to three percent of babies suffer a birth injury.
Birth injuries, unlike birth defects, are often preventable. Some common birth injuries are:
- Oxygen deprivation due to reasons such as delayed birth, causing brain injuries
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Spinal cord damage
- Contusions and broken bones.
Birth injuries can occur for many reasons, such as:
- Not treating labor or birth complications properly
- Not performing a Caesarean procedure when it is called for
- Not treating the baby properly when there are signs that it is in distress
- Handling the baby roughly or otherwise using an improper birth procedure
- Improper usage of common birthing tools, such as forceps or vacuum assistance
- Administering incorrect medication, or administering an incorrect dosage, during labor or the birthing process.
Because birth injuries are often preventable and can be caused by a medical professional attending the birth, an injury sustained by the infant during birth that is due to medical negligence can be legally actionable. Birth injuries often mean a lifetime of added expenses for the family. Remedying the situation through legal means is our system’s attempt to resolve this difficult and heartbreaking situation.
Many states allow the families of birth injury victims due to medical negligence to bring a case and seek financial compensation from those responsible. South Carolina is one of those states. However, there is a time limit for pursuing compensation, so the family must seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
Is your child suffering from a birth injury? At the Louthian Law Firm, we’ve been handling personal injury cases throughout South Carolina since 1959. We have extensive experience in all areas of personal injury law and we’re committed to putting that experience to work for you, while offering the personal service and understanding that families in crisis need. If you have a child who is suffering from a birth injury, it is important to speak with an attorney familiar with South Carolina birth injury law. We always offer free consultations with no further obligation on your part. To schedule your case evaluation, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-803-454-1200 or use our online contact form.