Birth defects and birth injuries are both abnormalities present at the time of the infant’s delivery. Each can range in severity and potentially have effects lasting for the rest of a baby’s life.
The difference between the two is that birth defects occur because of something wrong during fetal development in the womb. In contrast, birth injuries occur because of an adverse event during labor or delivery.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a birth defect occurs when something about the baby’s body is abnormal. It may be visibly noticeable, such as a missing limb. It could also be a chemical imbalance that would not show visible signs or a malformation of an internal organ, which is only observable with medical imaging or surgery to visualize the affected body part.
It is not always possible to determine the cause of a birth defect. Some have multiple reasons. Birth defects can occur because of an infection or exposure to drugs when the mother was pregnant. Sometimes the cause is genetic. Examples of birth defects include limb defects, scoliosis or a cleft palate.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, birth injuries occur due to a traumatic event during labor or delivery. For example, the baby may not get enough oxygen, which can damage the brain and result in cerebral palsy. A doctor attempting to deliver the baby with forceps could accidentally fracture the skull. Another typical example of a birth injury is a brachial plexus injury, which occurs when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged under the mother’s hip bone during delivery.
Parents can seek recourse if birth injuries occur because of the doctor’s negligence.