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The Causes and Prevention of Birth Defects, and Knowing Your Rights

February 27, 2023Personal Injury

Birth defects are a challenging and life-changing event for families. The physical, emotional, and financial impacts on affected children and their parents can be significant and long-lasting. Although birth defects can happen to anyone, at any time, they remain a common occurrence in the United States.

Several factors can cause birth defects, many of which are unpreventable. However, some defects occur due to the negligent actions of medical professionals before and during the labor and delivery process. If your child developed a birth defect due to medical negligence, you could hold the at-fault provider accountable in a lawsuit.

What Is a Birth Defect?

A birth defect is a physical or functional abnormality that is found before, after, or at birth. These conditions can affect any part of the body, such as the heart, brain, spine, limbs, or internal organs, and often result in lasting complications. 

Some common birth defects include:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Spina bifida
  • Clubfoot
  • Neural tube defects
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment

What Causes Birth Defects?

Birth defects can result from various factors, including genetics, environmental exposures, infections, and medical negligence. Some factors that may raise the risk of birth defects include:

  • Inherited genetic mutations or chromosomal abnormalities
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals, drugs, or radiation during pregnancy
  • Maternal infections, such as rubella, Zika virus, or cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Poor maternal nutrition or obesity
  • Maternal age, with mothers over 35 at a higher risk
  • Medical negligence during prenatal care, labor, or delivery

Medical negligence can occur when healthcare providers fail to meet the standard of care expected in their profession, resulting in harm to a patient. In the context of birth defect cases, a doctor may fail to diagnose or treat a maternal infection, prescribe a dangerous medication, or make an error during delivery. In these situations, his or her actions or inaction may be considered medical negligence if the child developed a birth defect as a result.

Can Birth Defects Be Prevented?

In many cases, birth defects are not preventable because they result from genetic or developmental factors that are beyond a person’s control. However, some birth defects caused by environmental exposures or infections can be prevented by taking certain precautions, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Birth defects caused by medical negligence can also be prevented by following the medical standard of care. If a doctor, nurse, or hospital staff causes or contributes to a child’s birth defect by failing to provide adequate care, the parents may be able to pursue legal action to seek compensation for any losses associated with the defect, including medical expenses, future care costs, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Legal Options for Victims of Medical Negligence

If you suspect that your child’s birth defect was caused by medical negligence, it is essential to consult with an Augusta birth injury lawyer who can review your case and advise you on your legal options. Birth defect lawsuits can be complex and challenging to prove, as they often require expert testimony, evidence of causation, and an extensive review of both the child’s and the mother’s medical records.

However, if your lawyer can establish that the healthcare provider’s actions or inaction caused the birth defect, you may be able to recover significant compensation to help pay for your child’s ongoing medical needs and related expenses. After your child’s diagnosis, contact a birth injury attorney to discuss your case and plan your next steps.