6 Things You Need to Know about Birth Defects

According to Healthline, 1 out of 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect. To help bring awareness to Birth Defects Prevention Month (January), the attorneys at The Oshman Firm are offering imperative information on what you need to know if you or a loved one is currently pregnant, or considering having a child.

Mother holds babies handOur law firm has long represented clients whose families have suffered the consequences of birth injury. We strongly believe that sharing information, especially concerning our firm’s experience with legal matters associated with birth defects, is a public service necessity.

If you are seeking legal consultation regarding your child’s birth injury — Contact us today at 800-400-8182 for a no-obligation, no-cost case evaluation.

Birth Defects Are Common

It’s important to know that birth defects are common, though some are more common than others. In fact, according to KidsHealth, there are more than 4,000 types of known birth defects. Birth defects fall into one of two categories: structural or function/developmental.

1 out of 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.

When a specific body part is malformed or missing, it’s considered to be a “structural defect.” Common examples include:

  • Cleft Lip or Palate
  • Spina Bifida
  • Clubfoot

When a body part or system fails to work properly, it’s considered to be a “functional or developmental birth defect” where physical or cognitive development is affected. Common examples include:

  • Down Syndrome
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis

Birth Defects Can Be Serious

While some birth defects can be minor and need no treatment, some can be severe and require surgical procedures. Very serious birth defects may affect organ function and overall development necessitating long-term medical treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe birth defects account for 20 percent of deaths, ranking them as the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States.

Birth Defects Can Affect Finances

A study conducted by the CDC found that hospitalization for birth defects costs the U.S. over $2.6 billion annually. One example cited is that medical costs for a child with Down syndrome have been known to be 12 to 13 times higher than a child without Down syndrome. If that same child also has a congenital heart defect, medical costs increase even more dramatically.

If you include the financial and emotional impacts these defects have on family members, the real impact becomes much harder to put a price on.

Birth Defects Diagnosed

Many birth defects are discovered or may be found in the first trimester of pregnancy. Prenatal ultrasounds can be used for diagnosis for some types of birth defects in utero. Blood tests and amniocentesis (when a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken) are also available types of tests to screen for birth defects. Amniocentesis is usually offered to women who are considered to have higher risk pregnancies.

Other screening includes newborn screening which takes place after birth. These include physical examinations, a hearing test and a blood test.

Though these screenings for birth defect diagnosis are available, it’s vital to understand that these tests don’t always find all existing defects.

(Some) Birth Defects Are Preventable

There are different ways to lower the risk of having a baby who suffers from a defect. Women who plan on becoming pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements before conception, and continue to do so throughout their pregnancy. Folic acid supplements have been known to help prevent spine and brain defects. As equally important is for women to take prenatal vitamins.

In addition, pregnant women may lower birth defect risks if they:

  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco
  • Use caution with medications and vaccines
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Attend regular prenatal appointments

Parents-to-be may also elect to seek genetic counseling. This involves meeting with a professional counselor who can advise couples of the specific risks and factors of birth defects that may be present.

Birth Defect Causes

Birth defects can develop from various factors including genetic and nongenetic causes, lifestyle choices and behaviors and exposure to medicines or infections. Mothers and/or fathers can pass on genetic abnormalities which occurs at conception, and for the most part, cannot be prevented.

Nongenetic causes of defects can include smoking, using illegal drugs, drinking alcohol while pregnant and being exposed to toxic chemicals or viruses.

In some cases, drugs prescribed by a doctor to a pregnant woman may cause birth defects. One such drug that has been linked to birth defects is Zoloft. When taken during pregnancy, Zoloft has been found to more than triple the risk or serious and deadly birth defects. More information about the drug maker’s negligence can be found in our article here: Birth Defects Linked to Zoloft.

During Birth Defects Awareness Month, we recognize that some birth defects may be preventable. We also recognize that some factors such as medical or drug injury may contribute to your child’s birth defect. Our law firm believe that children and their families who were harmed by medical malpractice or pharmaceutical negligence have rights.

If you require legal advice concerning your child being born with defects, then contact the attorneys at The Oshman Firm today at (800) 400-8182. We have a proven track record in our successful fights to achieve justice for families harmed by others negligence. We offer free consultations; contact us now.



Ted Oshman


Ted Oshman has been with The Oshman Firm since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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