Having a baby is a miraculous process, but it is also one that can be full of complications and, in some cases, lead to poor health outcomes for both the mother and the baby. One question that we often hear is in regards to birth defects and birth injuries. Many parents wonder what the connection between birth injuries and birth defects is, and whether or not the two complications are independent and distinct from one another. Here is an overview of what you should know:
Birth Defects and Birth Injuries: Definitions
Birth injuries and birth defects are often used to describe the same thing, but the terms actually apply to two distinct conditions. Birth injuries, as explained by Stanford Children’s Health, are injuries suffered by a child as a result of being born or as a result of a complication during the birthing process. For example, a bone fracture injury and a brachial plexus injury are both two types of examples of birth injuries that are sustained during the birthing process.
Birth defects, on the other hand, refer to problems that happen while the baby is developing. Unlike acute trauma–such as pulling on a baby’s arm to free the infant from the birth canal–birth injuries can be caused by a variety of factors.
Risk Factors for Birth Defects and Birth Injuries
Birth defects can be caused by a number of different factors. These factors might include:
- Genetics, such as a child being passed along a gene that causes some sort of birth defect;
- Chromosomal problems, such as an extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome;
- A lack of nutrients during pregnancy, such as enough folic acid; and
- Infections during pregnancy, such as contracting the Zika virus.
There are also some behaviors that a mother can engage in during the pregnancy that can contribute to the risk of a birth defect, such as smoking while pregnant, drinking alcohol while pregnant, or using certain medications. Being over the age of 34 at the time of a child’s birth also increases the risk of birth defects.
Birth injuries are also associated with certain risk factors. For example, certain health conditions of the mother can increase the risk of birth injury. An above-average weight of the newborn can also increase the risk of injury.
Often, there is nothing that can be done to prevent birth defects; however, birth injuries often are preventable with careful monitoring of mother and baby, ensuring that emergency c-sections are performed if necessary, and using the proper degree of care when delivering a baby. Many birth injuries are the result of the improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during pregnancy.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are pregnant, the best thing that you can do is to have an honest conversation with your doctor about your medical history, your lifestyle, and tips for a healthy pregnancy. Be sure to create a plan with your doctor concerning your delivery, and seek medical care if anything feels off. The more informed you are, the more likely you are to have a positive experience. If you feel that you need to make a claim, speak with an experienced birth injury attorney.