Are Birth Defects and Birth Injuries the Same Thing?


The first cry of a child is the happiest moment in a parent’s life. However, this can quickly become confusion, sadness, or anger when you realize your child has a birth defect or injury.

But are the two not the same? Birth defects and birth injuries are quite common in the US and may range from mild and usually temporary to severe and permanent. However, the two conditions are distinct and do not stem from similar causes. So, understanding what sets them apart can help you better manage your case.

So, let us learn what birth defects and injuries are, what causes them, the different types, and how a birth injury attorney can help.

What Is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is a congenital malformation that can affect any body part. In other words, it is a trait present at or before birth, often due to genetics and development abnormalities during fetal development.

Types of Birth Defects

Birth defects fall into two broad categories. These include:

Structural Birth Defects

Structural birth defects affect the structure of the baby’s body parts. Examples include:

  • Cleft palate or cleft lip
  • Heart defects, e.g., misshaped or missing valves
  • Neural tube defects, e.g., issues with the brain and spinal cord’s growth and development, spina bifida, etc.
  • Abnormal limbs, e.g., a clubfoot

Functional or Developmental Birth Defects

These birth defects affect how the baby’s body or a specific part of it works. Examples include the following:

  • Brain or nervous system issues, e.g., Prader-Willi syndrome, Down syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome.
  • Sensory problems, e.g., visual and hearing loss problems like blindness or deafness.
  • Metabolic disorders like phenylketonuria and hypothyroidism.
  • Degenerative disorders like muscular dystrophy and X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.

That said, some birth defects affect several body processes or parts, causing functional and structural issues.

What Is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury, sometimes known as birth trauma, is internal or external damage to a baby before, during, or immediately after labor or delivery. In other words, a birth injury is not genetic or inherited. Instead, it results from the childbirth process itself. Trauma, developmental abnormalities, and problematic pregnancies or births are examples of things that can cause a birth injury.

Now, depending on the circumstances around your baby’s birth injuries, you can get a birth injury attorney to file for compensation and bring the responsible party to book.

What Are the Types of Birth Injuries?

Like birth defects, birth injuries can be classified into different categories. The three most common types of birth injuries are:

Brain Injuries

Brain damage, caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the baby’s brain, is the most common birth injury. This asphyxiation often causes bleeding in and around the brain and cell death. Sadly, this category of birth injury is permanent. Cerebral palsy, a condition that affects a baby’s ability to coordinate their body and movement, is perhaps the most common birth injury caused by brain injuries.

Orthopedic and External Damage

This birth injury includes bruises, broken bones, lacerations, and other physical damages due to external trauma. A clavicle fracture is easily the most common injury in this category, and it often happens when a baby’s shoulders are stuck in the birth canal.

Nerve Injuries

The brain controls the body’s movements via a network of nerves running from the brain through the neck and down to the spine. In a difficult birth, a baby’s nerve channels, usually in the shoulder and neck area, can get adversely impacted by excessive stretching or compression as they move through the birth canal. Damage to these nerves leads to birth injuries like Klumpke’s and Erb’s palsy.

Are all Birth Injuries Due to Medical Negligence or Malpractice?

The answer is no. Not all birth injuries are due to medical malpractice or negligence. Sometimes, they are due to factors beyond the doctor’s control.

However, a good number of birth injuries are caused by medical negligence and errors. For instance, delaying performing a C-section in an emergency, giving the wrong diagnosis during the prenatal stage, or even careless use of forceps and vacuums during labor.

Sometimes, failing to inform the mother of the risks of forceps or vacuum during vaginal may be considered negligence.

How Do I Know if My Baby’s Birth Injury Was from Medical Negligence?

Finding out that your baby has a birth injury can be emotionally draining. And for most parents, the most persistent questions are why and if it could have been avoided.

That said, if you suspect negligence or error from the medical staff, the only way to know for sure is to seek advice from a qualified medical expert. So, contact a birth injury lawyer to help you file a lawsuit against the liable parties.