The difference of an infant suffering from a birth defect or birth trauma can be subtle, but their legal implications are poles apart. Although the child’s symptoms may be similar, distinguishing the origins of the complications is critical, and can mean the difference between obtaining the proper medical care and compensation for your child, and having to find the money yourself.
A birth defect is a congenital disorder or disease that develops during infancy, while the child is still in the mother’s womb. Caused by genetic abnormalities, infections, the mother’s health, or environmental conditions (smoke or alcohol), these defects are not labor-induced, but can emerge anytime during the pregnancy and up to a month following the delivery.
In contrast, serious birth trauma or injury involves an infant’s vital organs, bone structures, or nerve centers, such as the heart, skull, or brain. These injuries are primarily a result of the birthing process, and happen during labor or delivery.
The delivery of a child is a forceful event—contractions, compressions, torque, and traction—but when the wrong type of force is exerted on the fragile infant, complications can result.
Birth trauma can range from severe to minor. Less severe forms of birth injury such as bruising or lacerations are not typically a danger to an infant’s life, but serious injuries can lead to brain damage or even death.
Doctors estimate that six out of every one thousand infants born in America suffer from some form of birth trauma.
A frequent form of potential injury occurs when the mother’s umbilical cord wraps around the infant’s neck. An estimated 25% to 35% of all births experience this danger, but a portion of these infants are endangered when the umbilical cord constricts too tightly around the throat, causing strangulation and a deprivation of oxygen to the brain. This risk is dangerous, but oftentimes an unavoidable result of the birthing process.
However, sometimes birth injuries are not caused by the birthing process, but rather medical negligence. Medical malpractice cases involving birth trauma are especially difficult for the parents, whose lives will change completely to care for the additional needs of their injured child, and are burdened by hefty medical expenses.
Cerebral palsy, hypoxia (when the infant’s brain is damaged from lack of oxygen) from a delayed C-section, and high PIH (pregnancy-induced hypertension) levels are injuries that commonly occur due to medical malpractice or negligence during labor.
While a mother is giving birth, a team of doctors and nurses are responsible for monitoring the mother and child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and other body systems. One case of medical malpractice during birth occurs when a member of the hospital staff fails to watch the monitors, or they misread information and the infant is injured as a result.
Likewise, a doctor can cause trauma or injury to the infant by using too much force to extract the child from the birth canal during a difficult delivery.
Since birth defects are genetic conditions completely out of the doctor’s control, medical malpractice or negligence is generally not considered. But if medical malpractice or negligence during the birthing process can be proven, parents can attain compensation and justice for their child’s injuries.
Although nothing can fully compensate the parents of an injured child, receiving financial payment for the child’s future medical bills and expenses is a good start.
Medical malpractice attorneys at Gilreath & Associates in Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville have extensive experience representing mothers, fathers, and injured babies in court, and can help get you the settlement you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.