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What Is Meconium and Why Is It Important?


Doctors and nurses will sometimes talk about meconium.  It can be helpful to parents to have an understanding of what it is, and why it matters to the delivery of a safe and healthy baby.

Meconium is the product of a baby’s bowel movement in the womb or shortly after delivery.  There are two typical circumstances where a baby will have a bowel movement while in utero:  when the baby is near full-term, or where the baby is experiencing some type of distress, including a lack of oxygen.  A bowel movement is one possible physical reaction to stress.

Unlike normal poop, meconium is a thick, sticky tar-like substance.  Babies are at risk of developing Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS) when they inhale meconium.  If the baby passes meconium and gasps while in the womb, he or she could inhale that meconium.  This is most common when:

  • Baby is full-term or beyond
  • There are problems with the umbilical cord
  • The baby does not grow properly

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome is treated initially by attempting to clear the lungs, often with a tube after delivery.  If the aspiration is particularly bad, the baby may ned to be put on a breathing machine.  In the short-term, it can cause breathing problems, a low heart rate, and poor muscle tone.  This usually resolves fairly quickly, but in extreme cases MAS can cause death or chronic lung problems.

Meconium can also be used by birth injury attorneys and doctors to help identify the cause and timing of a birth injury.  Fetal distress, including oxygen deprivation, causes the baby’s intestinal muscles to relax, which can be a cause of a meconium-producing bowel movement.   This is one additional factor to be considered by medical experts who will determine whether medical malpractice was the cause of a birth injury like cerebral palsy.

Contact Us

If your baby aspirated meconium before delivery, be sure to let your lawyers know during your initial phone call.  They may order your baby’s delivery records for more detail on the meconium, and whether it caused injury to your baby, or whether it helps to identify the cause of your baby’s injuries.  For more information, contact us at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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