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How does a birth defect differ from a birth injury?

Children are a gift, not just to their parents, but also to their entire family. Unfortunately, there are times in which a doctor's error during the delivery process causes a birth injury. In fact, in the United States, approximately five births out of every 1,000 will result in a birth injury.

With this in mind, it is important for Pennsylvanians to understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. If a doctor makes an otherwise avoidable error during the delivery process, this could cause a birth injury and give rise to the possibility of a medical malpractice lawsuit. For example, the improper use of a vacuum extractor or forceps could cause an otherwise avoidable birth injury. In addition, failing to provide a cesarean section when one is needed could also give rise to an otherwise avoidable birth injury.

On the other hand, a birth defect usually occurs prior to the child's birth due to an event that took place while the mother was pregnant. It is estimated that seven percent of infants born will have a birth defect. Heredity, an action by the mother, or the environment can cause a birth defect. Some birth defects are unavoidable and not the fault of the attending physician, so there is no basis available on which to take legal action. However, certain prescription drugs could cause birth defects. If a doctor negligently prescribed a woman a medication that caused a birth defect, this could, in some circumstances, give rise to a lawsuit.

Birth injuries should be avoided at all costs. However, determining doctor negligence often takes professional experience. Attorneys working in the field of medical malpractice may be able to give Pennsylvanians more information about birth injuries and lawsuits.

Source: FindLaw, "Birth Injury Overview," accessed March 30, 2015

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