Pediatric Meconium Aspiration

Pediatric Meconium Aspiration

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Summary

Meconium aspiration happens when an infant baby inhales feces found in the amniotic fluid before, during or after birth.

Expanded overview

Meconium aspiration happens when an infant inhales (breathes in) some of the amniotic fluid before, during or after birth. If meconium (feces) is inhaled, it can become trapped in the airways and make it difficult or impossible for them to breathe after birth.  The more meconium a baby inhales, the more serious situation may become.

Causes

Meconium is a sticky substance that is made of the baby’s first bowel movement. Normally a baby passes meconium within the first few days after birth. Sometimes the meconium is passed into the amniotic fluid before birth. This may happen because the baby is overdue (past 40 weeks), due to fetal distress or for no known reason. Any baby can have meconium aspiration; however, it is not likely in a premature infant.

Risk factors

The most common risk factors for meconium aspiration include:

  • Conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Growth problems in the uterus
  • Long labor and delivery
  • Postmaturity (baby born after 40 weeks)
  • Umbilical cord problems, including compression or prolapse

Symptoms

Symptoms of meconium aspiration are noted during and immediately following birth and may include:

  • Breathing problems immediately after birth
  • Dark green streaks in the amniotic fluid
  • Limp muscle tone at birth
  • Low APGAR score at birth (measure of physical condition performed at birth)
  • Low heart rate (in the baby) before birth
  • Meconium found in the amniotic fluid
  • Meconium (green or blue) stains on the newborn’s skin
  • Signs of postmaturity (such as long fingernails)

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