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Meconium Aspiration

Meconium is the name of the early feces or stool that is passed by a newborn shortly after birth.  In some cases, a baby can pass this meconium while still in the uterus.  When that happens, it usually means that the baby was under some kind of fetal distress and not getting enough blood or oxygen.  Once the meconium has entered the amniotic fluid, the baby can breath it into his or her lungs.  If the baby has meconium in the lungs, it is called meconium aspiration and it could block the newborn’s airways leading to a decrease in the amount of oxygen the baby can breath in.  Some of the risk factors that could cause fetal distress and meconium in the amniotic fluid are:

  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Prolonged labor
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Post-date baby
  • Maternal high blood pressure
  • Difficult delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • Hyperstimulation of the uterus or too many contractions in a short period of time
  • Infections

Obviously, preventing meconium in the amniotic fluid would be the ideal situation but sometimes it is unavoidable.  However, once the obstetrician, nurse midwife or nurse realizes that the baby had passed meconium while in utero, the next step is to prevent the baby from aspirating the meconium into the lungs.  Once the baby’s head is delivered, the doctor or nurse should suction out the newborn’s mouth and nose with a bulb syringe or suction catheter.  If the baby does not cry immediately after birth, a breathing tube may have to be inserted into the lungs to suction out any meconium that could be further down into the respiratory tract.  Suctioning should continue until there is no more meconium to be removed. Even if all the meconium was suctioned out, the newborn could still develop respiratory or breathing problems and might need a breathing tube or ventilator to help maintain the proper oxygen levels in the body.

Meconium aspiration syndrome can cause a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain and could lead to permanent brain damage, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures, developmental delays and cerebral palsy (CP).  If your amniotic fluid was meconium stained or your baby was delivered with meconium and now has developmental delays, brain damage or cerebral palsy, please contact one of our experienced birth injury lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.  Our experienced birth malpractice teams consist of doctors, neonatal intensive care (NICU) and delivery room nurses who have actually cared for women in labor and critically ill newborns.  To date, we have obtained over $2 billion in awards on behalf of our injured clients and have two of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Pennsylvania history.