Meconium is the first stool of an infant. Sometimes this stool is passed into the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby in pregnancy.
Meconium aspiration is when the meconium is inhaled into the baby’s lungs. Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) is a set of symptoms that may result from meconium inhalation.
Not all infants who inhale meconium will develop these symptoms. It is not known why some infants develop MAS and others do not.
Factors that may increase your baby’s risk of meconium aspiration include: Post-term delivery—delivery after 42 weeks of pregnancyCesarean deliveryAbnormal heart rate during laborReduced amniotic fluidLow or high birth weightMeconium below the baby’s vocal cordsLow APGAR score after birth—assessment score of baby after birth
Factors in the mother that may increase the chance of meconium aspiration in the child include: High blood pressureDiabetesRespiratory diseaseHeart diseaseSmokingHeavily meconium stained amniotic fluid
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MAS may cause: Breathing that is too rapid or too slowBlue skin color due to lack of oxygenGruntingNostrils that spread outward when breathingReduced muscle tone or spontaneous movementA heart rate of less than 100 beats per minute
You will be asked about your baby's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may be ordered to look for complications or causes.
The doctor may need to see pictures of your baby’s chest. This can be done with:
—to look for changes caused by meconium aspiration
—to look for changes in heart function caused by meconium aspiration
The doctor may also need to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. This can be done with:
Pulse oximetryBlood tests
Meconium aspiration may not cause serious problems. Your doctor will monitor your baby. Other treatment may not be needed.
If your child is not vigorous in the delivery room the doctor may need to intubate your child to remove meconium from the trachea (breathing tube).
Supportive care may be needed if the aspiration is causing breathing difficulty. Your baby may need to be monitored in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan. Options include:
MAS can lower the amount of oxygen to your baby’s body. Your baby may be given oxygen in the delivery room. The oxygen will be given through a mask or a hood that fits over the baby’s head. This will improve the amount of oxygen in the body by making more available in the lungs.
The therapy may be continued if your baby continues to have problems breathing.
Your baby may be given IV fluids to control blood pressure and glucose levels.
Your baby may be given medication. The medication will coat the lungs and help clear the airways. This will also help your baby’s lungs mature.
Other medication may include antibiotics or heart medication. A special gas called nitric oxide may also be added. This gas can help open the blood vessels in the lungs. This will let more oxygen enter the body.
In some cases, your baby may not be able to breathe properly on their own. Mechanical ventilation may be used to help your baby breathe.
Take these steps to help reduce your baby’s chance of MAS: Manage chronic conditions. This includes high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory disease, and heart disease.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can
Meconium aspiration. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/lungs/meconium.html. Updated October 2014. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Meconium aspiration. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital website. Available at:
http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=meconium-aspiration-90-P02384. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Meconium aspiration. University of Rochester Medical Center website. Available at:
http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Encyclopedia/Content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02384. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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