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A Complete Guide to Meconium

by | Newborn

Newborn babies are prone to many diseases and congenital disabilities. That is why thorough examination at the time of delivery is essential. Meconium aspiration syndrome is a common condition that you can witness in newborns.

meconium aspiration

Meconium is the first feces of newborn babies that generally ends in the initial few days. It does not contain any bacteria or smell. However, it can cause health issues if a baby passes it in the womb, where meconium is mixed with amniotic fluid and inhaled before, after, or during delivery.

However, if you are wondering how meconium stained amniotic fluid is harmful, prevented, and can be treated, keep reading till the end.

What is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

It is a dark green fecal material generated in the infant’s intestines in the last week of delivery. After delivery, the newborn baby passes this stool for the initial few days.

The stress babies go through during delivery makes them produce sticky, dark, thick, green poop, an amalgamation of fats, proteins, cells, and other intestinal secretions like bile.

meconium aspiration

MAS is not harmful and life-threatening, but it can cause significant health problems for your newborn. If doctors and parents leave it untreated, it can be fatal.

What Cause Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

It generally occurs when a baby experiences stress. Stress generally happens when the oxygen level significantly reduces in the fetus. However, the common causes of MAS include:

    meconium aspiration
    • Complicated and long labor
    • Infection
    • A pregnancy that gets longer than 40 weeks
    • Different health issues are experienced by the mother, including diabetes and hypertension.

    The baby does not begin to produce and pass meconium till later in pregnancy. As the pregnancy period gets extended, the fetus can be potentially exposed to meconium stained amniotic fluid for a long time. As the pregnancy progresses to the due date, the level of amniotic also goes down that concentrates the meconium. Consequently, meconium aspiration syndrome occurs in overdue fetuses compared to term timely born babies.

    Risk Factors

    Meconium in amniotic fluid is not life-threatening if diagnosed and treated timely. Anyhow, parents need to take the necessary measures to avoid this condition. The risk factors that can stress the baby before the birth includes:

    meconium aspiration
    • Post-term pregnancy
    • Maternal diabetes
    • Maternal hypertension
    • Preeclampsia
    • Fetal distress and disease

    Intrauterine hypoxia. It is a condition in which the fetus gets a minimum amount of oxygen in the uterus.

    Signs and Symptoms

    If you carefully notice the baby’s body functioning, you can comprehend that something is wrong with him. Respiratory distress and rapid breathing are the typically witnessed symptom of MAS. Your little one may breathe speedily.

    Moreover, some stillborn babies cease breathing if their air passage gets clogged by meconium. To avoid this situation, here are some commonly noticed symptoms:

    • Limpness
    • Purplish or bluish skin color
    • Low blood pressure
    • Slow heart rate
    • Baby has meconium stains

    How to Diagnose Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

    At the time of birth, most babies are generally thoroughly examined to check if they possess any potential symptoms of disease or birth defects. Similarly, the meconium aspiration syndrome mas diagnosis is made on symptoms and the occurrence of meconium in the amniotic fluid.

    meconium aspiration

    The physicians will carefully hear the infants’ chest with a stethoscope to hear abnormal breath sounds. Here are a few methods commonly practiced confirming the diagnosis:

    • X-ray the chest to see if meconium has entered the baby’s lungs.
    • Gas elements test the blood to determine carbon dioxide and oxygen levels. 


    Meconium aspiration syndrome does not cause long-term health complications, but if the issue is left untreated, it can immediately impact the newborn’s health. If it enters the lungs, meconium can result in infection and inflammation.

    meconium aspiration

    Meconium can also clog the breathing track, which results in the expansion of the lungs. If the lungs inflate and over-expand, they can collapse or rupture. Then the air scatters around the lungs and gets stuck into the chest cavity, which makes lung expansion difficult. However, this condition is known as pneumothorax.

    Meconium integration also threatens your infants’ pulmonary hypertension in stillborn babies. The pumped blood pressure in the lung’s vessels can restrict blood flow, making breathing challenging for your baby. It is a rare condition seen in the case of meconium aspiration, but it is life-threatening.

    Rarely, but in case of severe meconium aspiration can limit oxygen transfer to the brain, which results in permanent brain damage. However, sometimes meconium also clog into intestine causing meconium ileus which is another extreme and harmful.

    Treatment of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

    Meconium in a newborn will require immediate treatment to remove it from the respiratory tract. Right after the birth, your doctor will immediately suction the upper airways. If your baby does not respond, the tube in your newborn’s windpipe is replaced to suck the meconium-stained fluid. The process keeps going until no meconium is evident in the removed material.

    meconium aspiration

    If the baby is still not breathing or responding, the doctor will apply a mask to help them breathe. It will provide extra oxygen to the baby’s lungs and help to inflate.

    However, the treatment of meconium aspiration depends on the thickness as well as the meconium amount. The duration of the baby’s exposure to meconium and the severity of the breathing issues also play a crucial role in determining the treatment.

    If the amniotic fluid of the mother shows evidence of meconium, a method known as amnioinfusion can be utilized at the time of labor. This process involves putting a small sized tube into the mother’s uterus via vagina to dilute amniotic. It helps in meconium in amniotic fluid dilution.

    The other meconium aspiration treatment also includes:

    • Giving the baby supplemental oxygen with the help of a mechanical ventilator and hood.
    • Suctioning the baby’s primary airways such as mouth, throat, nose, etc.
    • Give antibiotics to treat the infection.
    • Gently tap on the baby’s chest to dilute secretions
    • Give radiant warmth to maintain optimal baby’s body temperature.


    Meconium is a condition in newborns that occurs at the time of birth or a few days before due to an extended pregnancy period. It has no potential side effects as long as the baby does not inhale it. This condition can occur due to delivery stress, decreased oxygen, and amniotic fluid.

    Meconium aspiration syndrome does not pose a threat to life, but if it is left untreated, it can severely damage the lungs and cause respiratory distress. Hence, doctors need to ensure that the baby is suffering from this condition to provide timely aid.


    How can you prevent MAS?

    Early detection is an excellent defense in preventing meconium aspiration syndrome. Fetal monitoring before birth can help determine if the baby is experiencing stress and is likely to get exposure to meconium and amniotic fluid.

    The doctors can take the necessary steps to reduce stress during labor and minimize the chances of developing meconium plug syndrome. On the contrary, if your fetus is facing stress, your physicians will be ready to provide aid and treat your baby immediately if there are visible signs of meconium presence in the amniotic fluid.

    What is the outlook for newborns with MAS?

    Most babies who suffer mild complications due to meconium-stained amniotic fluid recover well. On the contrary, infants who get their brain damaged or PPHN due to MAS are more likely to face lifelong health issues that demand a general medical report.

    How do you remove meconium from a baby?

    Through and careful cleaning of meconium is necessary to avoid rash and infection. You can use baby wipes, as well as warm clothes, to clean the newborn’s poop. Apart from that, you can also use olive oil or other baby oil on a clean cloth. It softly cleans the mess.

    How much meconium is normal for a newborn?

    Usually, new parents can expect the baby to have three meconium bowel movements at the age of 2 days. The consistency is still expected to be thick, black, and sticky. After three rounds, on the third day, the stool gradually becomes closer to a greenish color and ultimately turns yellow.

    How long does it take to treat meconium aspiration?

    The meconium usually goes away in a matter of 2 to 4 days, but you can still witness rapid breathing for a few days. The breathing will also normalize in a few days if MAS has not permanently damaged the lungs, which is a rare condition.

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