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What is the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect?

Few things are more important to soon-to-be parents in New Mexico than having a healthy baby. When a baby is born with an unexpected medical condition, however, it can be very worrying for the parents. Many rightfully question what caused it.

Was it something they could have prevented? Was it caused by negligent medical care? Learning the answers to these questions and others can help parents understand whether their child's condition is a birth defect or a birth injury. If it is a birth injury, it may be possible to file a medical malpractice claim.

Birth defects affect approximately 120,000 babies every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birth defects are wide-ranging in type and severity. Some are very recognizable, like a cleft lip, while others take time to discover, like hearing loss. Unlike many birth injuries, birth defects do not always have a clear cause. It may have to do with the makeup of the parents DNA, or it could be related to certain activites the mother engaged in during pregnancy, such as smoking or drinking. In the context of medical malpractice, birth defects are usually not caused by medical negligence because they most often develop before birth.

Birth injuries, on the other hand, are most often caused when something goes wrong with the delivery of the child. They are sometimes attributed to medical negligence -- meaning the doctor, nurse or other medical professional failed to uphold the accepted standards of care when delivering a child. A nurse may have failed to properly monitor your child's vital signs, or a doctor may have prescribed a medication that caused harm to your child.

Understanding the difference between birth defects and birth injuries can help you decide whether to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the medical professionals involved in your child's birth. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can also help you determine whether you have a strong case. 

Source: FindLaw, "Birth Injury FAQ," Accessed March 19, 2015

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