What is a Birth Defect?
Birth defects also referred to as congenital anomalies, are functional or structural abnormalities that occur during intrauterine life and can be identified prenatally, at birth, or sometimes may not be detected until later in infancy. These anomalies can lead to long-term disability, which may have significant impacts on individuals, families, healthcare systems, and societies.
Factors of Birth Defects
It’s crucial to understand that the occurrence of these defects may be influenced by a variety of factors such as genetic, environmental, and certain maternal conditions. Some birth defects can be prevented and treated. In certain instances, if a birth defect is caused due to negligence or exposure to harmful substances, it may give rise to a legal claim.
Seek Compensation for Another’s Negligence
The law recognizes the right of an individual to seek compensation for harm caused by another’s negligence or wrongdoing. If a birth defect is the result of such circumstances, parents or guardians may have the legal recourse to file a claim. Legal advice should be sought to navigate these complex issues and ensure the rights of the affected child are adequately protected.
Importance of understanding the most common birth defects
The 6 Most Common Birth Defects
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are issues with the structure of a baby’s heart that are present at birth. They can affect how the heart works and change the normal flow of blood through the heart. CHDs can involve the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside the heart, and the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or out to the body. In some cases, these defects can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart, which can lead to various health problems.
CHDs are the most common type of birth defect
They can range from simple conditions that don’t cause symptoms to complex defects that are severe and life-threatening. The exact cause of most congenital heart defects is unknown, but they can be associated with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome. Other factors that may increase the risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect include smoking during pregnancy, maternal diabetes, and certain medications taken during pregnancy
Symptoms and treatment options
Congenital heart defects can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the defect. Some defects might cause no noticeable symptoms, while others can lead to serious health problems.
Common symptoms in newborns and infants may include:
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Fatigue or weakness, especially during feeding
- Swelling in the legs, abdomen, or around the eyes
- Pale or bluish skin color, known as cyanosis
- Poor weight gain
Neural Tube Defects (Spina Bifida, Anencephaly)
These defects occur in fetuses within the first month of pregnancy. They result from a failure in the closure of the neural tube during embryonic development. This can lead to damage and poor formation of the baby’s spinal cord.
The two most common types are spina bifida and anencephaly:
- In spina bifida, the fetal spinal column doesn’t close completely. This is the most common type of NTD, affecting approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns.
- Anencephaly is a severe condition where the upper part of the neural tube fails to close, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.
Babies with neural tube defects may experience various symptoms, including physical problems such as paralysis, urinary and bowel control issues, blindness, deafness, and intellectual disability. Unfortunately, some children with certain types of NTDs may die or experience serious disability.
Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. These conditions can occur separately or together and result in an opening or split in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate), or both. These birth defects occur while a fetus is developing in the uterus.
Causes of Cleft Lip/Palate
- Genetics: Cleft lip and cleft palate often run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. If one or both parents have a history of these conditions, the risk increases.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors during pregnancy, such as specific medications, alcohol, tobacco smoke, and illicit drugs, can increase the likelihood of a baby being born with a cleft lip or palate.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Lack of certain nutrients, notably folic acid, during early pregnancy, can contribute to the development of cleft lip and palate.
- Maternal Illnesses or Infections: Certain illnesses or infections during pregnancy might increase the risk of a baby developing a cleft lip or palate.
- Advanced Maternal Age: Women who become pregnant after the age of 40 may have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip or palate.
This condition affects the bones, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels in the foot, causing the foot to point down and turn inward. It is often recognized at birth and occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., affecting more boys than girls. The cause of clubfoot is generally unknown, but it may have a genetic link as it can run in families.
In some cases, clubfoot can be associated with other congenital skeletal abnormalities such as spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t develop or close properly. Despite the physical deformity, with early intervention and treatment, most children born with clubfoot can lead a normal life. However, they may experience some long-term effects such as one foot being slightly smaller than the other or their leg muscles becoming tired more quickly than their peers.
Bone Growth Abnormalities
Bone growth abnormalities are a type of birth defect that can lead to conditions such as short stature, missing limbs, or scoliosis. These abnormalities occur when bone and muscle tissue develop abnormally in babies during fetal development.
Two Severe Disorders/Conditions:
- Skeletal Dysplasia is a complex group of bone and cartilage disorders that affect the fetal skeleton as it is developing in utero.
- Hypochondrogenesis, another severe disorder of bone growth, is characterized by a small body, short limbs, and abnormal bone development.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a condition that occurs in a child due to alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. It causes brain damage, and growth problems, and can lead to a wide range of birth defects and developmental disabilities. The severity and types of problems caused by FAS can vary greatly from child to child, but they are irreversible.
Most Common Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can occur during labor and delivery due to various circumstances. Some of the most common birth injuries include:
- Cerebral Palsy: This is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. It’s often caused by damage to the developing brain during birth.
- Facial Paralysis: This can occur if pressure is applied to the baby’s face during delivery, potentially damaging facial nerves. Paralysis can be temporary or permanent.
- Oxygen Deprivation: Also known as perinatal asphyxia, this can lead to various complications including brain damage.
- Cephalohematoma: This refers to bleeding underneath one of the cranial bones, often appearing as a raised bump on the baby’s head several hours after birth.
- Brachial Plexus Injuries: These injuries involve damage to the bundle of nerves that supply the arms and hands and can cause weakness, loss of sensation, or even paralysis in more severe cases.
- Fractured Collarbones: This is the most common bone fracture during delivery. It can occur due to complications during birth, especially in breech deliveries and in large babies.
- Caput Succedaneum: This is a severe swelling of the soft tissues of the baby’s scalp that develops as the baby travels through the birth canal. Most cases gradually disappear on their own.
It’s important to note that not all birth injuries are preventable, but some may result from medical negligence.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Proving medical malpractice in the case of a birth injury involves several key steps:
- Professional Duty Owed to the Patient: The first step is establishing that there was a professional relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient, creating a duty of care. This means the healthcare provider had a responsibility to provide a certain standard of care to the patient.
- Breach of Duty: The next step is proving that the healthcare provider breached this duty of care. This could involve showing that their actions (or inactions) fell below the accepted standard of care in the medical community.
- Injury Caused by the Breach: It must then be demonstrated that the breach of duty directly caused the birth injury. This often involves showing that the injury would not have occurred if the healthcare provider had not breached their duty of care.
- Resulting Damages: Finally, it must be shown that the birth injury resulted in damages. These damages could be physical, emotional, or financial, such as additional medical costs, pain, and suffering, or loss of future earning potential.
Hiring Ganim Injury Lawyers
We specialize in personal injury and medical malpractice cases, which would include birth injury claims. With over 30 years of experience, Attorney George Ganim and his team are experts in the field, having successfully helped numerous clients with their claims.
When handling your birth injury claim, we will provide the following services:
- Free Initial Consultation: We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the circumstances of the birth injury and determine the viability of a claim.
- Investigation and Evidence Gathering: We can help gather necessary evidence, including medical records and witness testimonies, to build a strong case.
- Expert Testimony: We may engage medical experts to provide testimony, helping to establish the standard of care that should have been provided and how it was breached.
- Negotiation with Insurance Companies: We can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to secure fair compensation.
- Trial Representation: If the case goes to trial, we will represent you in court, advocating for your rights and working to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Claim for Damages: We can help you claim damages, which might include medical bills, future care costs, pain and suffering, and loss of future earning potential.