Frequently Asked Birth Injury Questions

What is the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is far different than a birth injury. A birth defect is something that you child would have been born with according to DNA or some medical predisposition, such as a family medical history. A birth injury, however, is damage that an infant sustains during the birthing process (or just before or just after).

However, it’s important to note that while many birth defects are inherited, exposure to medications while pregnant may also cause them as well. Certain anti-depressant, birth control, and narcotic medications have been linked to birth defects such as spina bifida, cleft palate, limb abnormalities, and more. For additional details on medications and birth defects, refer to our article, Medication Birth Defects.

Are Birth Injuries Preventable?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, at least 30% of all birth injuries are caused by communication errors between physicians and medical staff regarding medical history and patient health information. Failure to diagnose fetal and/or maternal distress accounts for many other birth injuries, as well as hospital negligence. In these instances, birth injuries are almost always preventable. 

In fact, the sheer amount of preventable birth injuries each year has prompted many hospitals to participate in safety programs, such as the 2008 Premier Perinatal Safety Initiative. This particular initiative took place over a 5-year span, involving a total of 14 hospitals in 12 different states. After assessing over 250,000 births from 2008 to 2013, results indicated that several medical errors, which could have been prevented, were the primary reasons for the majority of birth injuries. The most common medical mistakes included:

  • Failure to detect and monitor fetal distress
  • Inappropriate administration of medications
  • Improper use of birth-assisting tools
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed cesarean sections (C-sections)

How Do I Know My Baby’s Disability is a Natural Defect or a Birth Injury?

Doctors are required by law to report any disability or abnormality to the parents before delivery, so if you were expecting a normal, healthy baby, yet the infant has a disability, this is one indication of a problem. In many instances, failure to properly diagnose health issues leads to birth injuries that could have otherwise been prevented.

Additionally, the color, health, and status of the baby at delivery is generally an indication of whether or not a birth injury has occurred, though some birth injuries don’t make themselves obvious until later. If you have any doubt in your mind, however, about your child being the victim of a birth injury, it’s important to speak up so as to get your child the necessary care.

Will My Child Get Better?

Birth injuries should not be taken lightly. It’s perfectly natural to look at your child’s case and to wonder if your child will have a lifetime disability or if the disability is temporary.

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer here. Birth injuries vary from mild to severe cases, from curable injuries to lifelong struggles, and with injuries both internal and external.

Whether your child will get better or not depends greatly on the injury at hand, how quickly it was caught, and what kind of medical care is available.

What Are Some Things I Can Do to Prevent Medical Malpractice?

While you can’t control things like a misdiagnosis or other medical mistakes that are out of your control, there are a few things you can do to help prevent medical malpractice, and potentially prevent a birth injury from happening to your baby.

Never feel afraid or anxious when asking your physician or anyone on the medical staff any questions or concerns you have. Always trust your instincts, and if something just doesn’t feel right, be certain to speak up. Keep in mind that have you the legal to be informed of what’s going on during your pregnancy, delivery, and you have the right to be made aware of any associated risks.

Educate yourself beforehand regarding the risks associated with common delivery techniques, such as using birth-assisting tools, C-section deliveries, and more. In addition, research the use of medications during pregnancy, including the types of birth defects associated with drugs taken while an infant is still in utero.