What is meconium aspiration syndrome in babies?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2022 | Birth Injuries |

One of the biggest nightmares for new parents in Wisconsin is to learn that their baby suffered a birth injury. Meconium aspiration syndrome is a complication that can occur during labor. This is what it means and how it can affect a newborn.

Meconium aspiration syndrome

Meconium is the infant’s first stool, which lines their intestines while in-utero. Normally, the substance isn’t released until after birth. However, some babies have their first bowel movement during delivery, which could result in meconium being inhaled into their lungs. This leads to meconium aspiration syndrome, which can cause serious illness. Although rare and only affecting around 5 to 10% of all infants, the complication could be deadly. Usually, it only occurs when a baby is born late and in fetal distress.

Signs and symptoms

If a baby is impacted by meconium aspiration syndrome, they will show certain signs and symptoms. Breathing problems are the most telling, plus babies often also present with a bluish tint to their skin. Infants are often limp during birth when they have meconium aspiration syndrome, rather than alert and physically lively.

Often, a dark greenish stain or streak appears in the amniotic fluid to signify the presence of meconium. This is a telltale sign that an infant may have meconium aspiration syndrome. However, babies affected by the condition often show signs before birth as well; the fetal monitor may display an abnormally slow heart rate.

Treatment for meconium aspiration syndrome

If a baby has meconium aspiration syndrome, the doctor can treat them by suctioning the mouth immediately. If the infant shows stress or thick staining of meconium is present, they might be placed in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). Treatment can also be done using antibiotics, warmers to regulate body temperature, a breathing machine or tapping on the baby’s chest to eliminate fluids.

Meconium aspiration syndrome is rare and serious but often treatable.