What Causes Birth Defects and Injuries?
Birth defects and birth injuries are caused by a variety of factors. Before going to the hospital, you should take time to learn about what causes these defects and injuries and what you can do to prevent them. Birth defects are issues that occur while the baby is developing in the womb. Some common birth defects are Down’s syndrome, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, clubfoot, spina bifida, cleft lip/cleft palate, and heart defects.
Birth injuries occur during pregnancy or delivery. A common birth injury is when the brachial plexus is damaged. This injury is sustained when the nerves stemming from the spinal cord to your shoulder, arms, and hands are damaged. Some other common birth injuries are subconjunctival hemorrhaging (broken blood vessels in the eyes), bruising, cephalohematoma (broken blood vessels under the scalp), asphyxia/hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), and fractures.
While birth defects can change the way you carry out your life, you might wonder what causes birth defects and birth injuries and how you can lower the risk of them occurring. As explained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects can occur at any stage during the gestational process, but most defects occur within the first three months of a fetus’s life. Genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices may all be determining factors. Controlling genetic birth defects can be extremely difficult and should be discussed with a medical professional if you are concerned.
Lifestyle Choices and Environmental Factors
People have control over environmental factors and lifestyle choices. Consumption of harmful chemicals or drugs can lead to birth defects in a developing fetus. Understandably, kicking an addiction is not always an easy process, and adding pregnancy to the formula can add more stress to the mother’s life. Sometimes when a mother, and in some cases, a father, use illicit or prescription drugs, the healthy development of their child can be impeded. Again, consulting with a doctor or medical professional regarding the addiction and how it may affect a developing fetus is recommended.
Environmental factors such as family members using drugs, working in a factory where harmful fumes can be inhaled, dangerous work environments, and more, can all affect the baby’s well-being. Many people are single parents and rely on their job(s) for the financial support of their families. If you believe you are pregnant and that your work environment could cause issues with the development of your child, speak with your management to coordinate a safer work environment during your pregnancy. While pregnant, you should ensure your work and living conditions are keeping you and your baby’s development healthy.
Brain injuries, when sustained during pregnancy or delivery, are usually the result of a handful of reasons. The baby could have a lack of oxygen at birth, which could occur if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby’s neck, the child gets stuck in the birth canal, or the baby presents in the breech position. Improper use of delivery tools, like forceps, which are used to extract a child from the birth canal, can cause bleeding in the brain, skull fractures, and serious damage to the facial nerves. Fetal distress can occur if a mother requires a cesarean section (c-section) and the procedure is delayed.
Another reason could be that the mother has untreated infections. Having untreated infections increases the risk of brain damage and premature birth. Undiagnosed high blood pressure also referred to as preeclampsia, can result in seizures, brain damage, and in extreme cases, death. Severe jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes), due to untreated liver failure can cause cognitive disabilities. If medical tools or the mother’s birth canal puts prolonged pressure on the skull, fluid build-up and brain swelling can occur.
How You Can Reduce the Risk of These Injuries
Preventing genetic mutations can be a very difficult, sometimes impossible, task. Working closely with your doctor every step of the way can help keep a close eye on the development of your baby. Some birth defects caused by the intake of harmful drugs or chemicals during pregnancy can be prevented by adjusting some daily choices and abstaining from these activities.
Preventing birth injuries might seem like something out of your hands however, you can have a part to play in keeping your child safe. It’s difficult to keep the umbilical cord from getting tangled or wrapped around your baby until the time of delivery but it’s important to make sure your doctor checks for this when your child is born. Regular check-ups with your doctor help keep a real-time update on your baby’s well-being in the womb. Working with your doctor on healing any infections you may have can help keep your baby healthy as well. It’s important, to be honest with your doctor about infections or other diseases you or your partner may have, as these can directly affect your baby’s development. Speaking openly with your healthcare provider about the tools they will use and the proper use of those tools can help ensure the doctor stays alert and aware during the procedure.
Medical Negligence and Malpractice
What is medical malpractice? Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional or healthcare provider fails to properly perform their duties and in doing so, causing harm, injury, or even death to their patient. This can be with simple check-ups, medical prescriptions, surgeries, and more. A report from 2016 by the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) reported 3,075 adverse actions occurred in the state of Florida. This refers to the number of measures taken against healthcare professionals. In total, there were 1,161 medical malpractice payments in 2016, which is an increase when compared to previous years.
When a medical professional prescribes medication you must be sure the medication is safe to take while pregnant. Not all medication is safe for pregnant women to take. If a healthcare provider incorrectly recommends and prescribes a medication that can harm the mother or the fetus, they may be held liable for those actions if birth defects arise. Another action a healthcare provider could be held liable for is not properly monitoring the mother or the child during the course of her pregnancy. For instance, a diabetic mother needs to be monitored closely by her healthcare provider because diabetes increases the risk of birth defects in the child if not properly monitored.
A third example where a healthcare provider could be held responsible for birth injures or defects is during the delivery process. As mentioned above, improperly monitoring the child’s or mother’s vitals can put the child, and mother, at risk. Performing an unnecessary c-section, excessively forcing the child out of the birth canal, or breaching the medical standard of care can also cause injuries to occur.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
All mothers and fathers want a healthy, strong baby to expand their family and the reckless acts of a medical professional should not stand in the way of that. In the instances mentioned above, it’s important to know that you can hold those at fault accountable for their negligent actions.
Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP’s South Florida birth defect lawyers have the necessary skills and experience to help you seek the full extent of the losses your family has suffered and could suffer down the road. These losses could include hospital expenses, future medical expenses related to your child’s care, pain and suffering, disfigurement and disability, lost future wages, and other economic or noneconomic losses your or your child could experience.
This article is a guest post written by the law office of Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP.