After carrying a child for 9 months, occasionally something goes wrong during the baby's delivery – an unfortunate reality that is more common than one might think. Every 4 minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States, with approximately 120,000 babies affected by birth defects every year.
Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect any part(s) of the body (e.g. heart, brain, foot). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both. A birth defect can be found before birth, at birth, or at any time after birth. Most of the time, birth defects are found within the first year of life. They can occur at any stage of pregnancy.
Different birth defects have different causes, with the causes of many birth defects remaining unknown. A specific condition might be caused by one or more of the following problems:
- Genetic problems
- Chromosomal problems
- Infections during pregnancy
- Lifestyle choices and behaviours
- Exposure to certain medications and chemicals
There are over 4,000 different types of birth defects, ranging from minor ones that don't require treatment to serious ones that cause disabilities or require medical treatment.
With any pregnancy, there is some risk of delivering a child with a birth defect. This risk increases under any of the following conditions:
- Family history of birth defects or other genetic disorders
- Alcohol consumption, drug use, or smoking during the pregnancy
- Maternal age of 35 years or older
- Inadequate parental care
- Untreated viral or bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted infections
- Use of certain high-risk medications, such as isotretinoin and lithium
- Women with certain pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes
Structural Birth Defects
Where a baby is born with a part of the body that is missing or malformed, it is called a structural birth defect. The most common type of structural defect is heart defects. Another common type of structural birth defect is spina bifida. This occurs when a baby's backbone does not form normally, and as a result, the spinal cord and its' nerves may be damaged. Other common structural birth defects include:
- Cleft palate
- Congenital dislocated hip
Functional Birth Defects
Functional or developmental birth defects cause a body part or system not to work properly. These often cause disabilities of intelligence of development. Functional birth defects include metabolic defects, sensory problems, and nervous system problems. The most common type of functional birth defects include:
- Down syndrome - causes a delay in physical and mental development
- Sickle cell disease - occurs when the red blood cells become mishappen
- Cystic fibrosis - damages the lungs and digestive system
Metabolic Birth Defects
Where there is a problem with the baby's body chemistry, it is called a metabolic birth defect. Metabolic defects prevent the body from properly breaking down food to create energy. For example, Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal disease that affects the central nervous system and phenylketonuria (PKU) affects the way the body processes protein.
How we can help
If your baby was born with a birth defect, you may be entitled to compensation for resulting medical costs, pain and suffering. The law limits the time in which you have to file a claim so you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. We encourage you to contact our Los Angeles based attorneys for a free, confidential, no-obligation review of your potential personal injury claim and see how we can help!