What Is Meconium And Can Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS) Be Dangerous For My Baby?
What is meconium? In general, meconium is the baby’s stool. It is a buildup of the materials a baby ingests during the growth process in the womb. Meconium can vary in color but is usually dark green. However, the substance can also display colors such as brown and yellow.
For many babies, meconium will not be passed until after birth. However, when babies pass meconium it gets absorbed into the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Doctors and nurses can tell that a baby has passed meconium because when the water is broken, the substance will be present in the fluid. Meconium, along with other factors, can reveal signs that the baby may be in distress and is having trouble with a vaginal delivery. Due to the fact meconium can be deadly for a child if swallowed (can block airways and lead to respiratory problems), doctors will immediately clear the substance from the nose and mouth of the baby following delivery. An examination by doctors following birth will seek to determine whether meconium is present past the baby’s vocal cords, increasing the risk of meconium aspiration syndrome.
What Is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?
Meconium aspiration syndrome occurs when meconium is present in the baby’s lungs. Meconium is the baby’s stool and is usually passed following birth. In some cases, however, the baby will pass the meconium right before delivery and it will be present in the amniotic fluid. Doctors will be able to tell that the baby has passed meconium because the fluid will be either a dark green in color, or brown, or yellow. Meconium present right after the water is broken can sometimes raise the alert flag that the baby is in distress.
If a baby ingests the meconium, it can lead to serious injury in the child. The reason being is that meconium can block the baby’s airways and lead to serious infection. Pneumonia can be the result of meconium aspiration syndrome and for these reasons, the condition creates an emergency in the delivery room. Doctors will immediately work to clear the baby’s airways (ventilation treatment is given as needed) because if the baby cannot get the requisite amount of oxygen, a brain injury can occur. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can be the result of doctors not treating meconium aspiration syndrome the right way. In addition, depending on where the brain is injured, cerebral palsy could be a future diagnosis of a child diagnosed with HIE.
Risk Factors For Meconium Aspiration Syndrome…
Below are some of the risk factors for meconium aspiration syndrome:
Umbilical Cord Problems
Baby Is Past Due Date
Mother Develops Preeclampsia
The Signs And Symptoms Of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
One of the most common signs that a baby has an increased chance of developing meconium aspiration syndrome is the passing of meconium when the water is broken. Doctors will be able to tell right away that meconium aspiration syndrome might come into play because they will see a dark greenish, or brown, or yellow substance in the fluid. Some of the other signs and symptoms of MAS are the following:
The Baby Has Rapid Breathing Following Birth
A Fast Heart Rate On The Electronic Fetal Heart Monitor Strip
Late Decelerations On The Electronic Fetal Heart Monitor Strip
The Baby Can Have Green Nailbeds
The Baby Can Have Green Skin
A Slow Heart Rate (Bradycardia)
Umbilical Cord Gases Reveal A Low pH
Baby’s Chest Is Barrel Shaped
X-Rays Reveal Streak Or Patchy Areas In The Lungs
Diagnosis And Treatment Of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Doctors can diagnose meconium aspiration syndrome through the following:
Blood Gas Testing To Determine If There Is A Low pH
X-Ray Of The Chest For The Presence Of Streak Or Patchy Areas In The Lungs
Listening To Breathing Patterns Of The Baby Through The Use Of A Stethoscope
One of the main areas of concerns when meconium aspiration syndrome is present is the baby not getting enough oxygen. Fetal hypoxia and HIE are serious medical conditions which can stem from a reduced level of blood and oxygen. Doctors cannot delay an emergency C-Section when factors reveal that the baby is no longer tolerating a vaginal delivery. If a doctor is not experienced enough to handle a baby who is suffering from meconium aspiration syndrome, a call should be made for assistance to help prevent injury. Many hospitals deploy a NICU team for a baby who has meconium stained fluid. The following can be used to treat meconium aspiration syndrome:
The Use Of A Trachea: Doctors may use this is remove any meconium from the windpipe
A Bag & Mask: This can be used to help the baby breathe. Usually the baby will present with a low heart rate and the bag and mask will help get oxygen to the baby’s lungs.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Treatment
Warmer: Used to help with the baby’s body temperature
Antibiotics: Used to help fight infection
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): With this treatment a machine acts as the baby’s lungs and heart, so the baby’s lungs can start to heal from injury. ECMO is used when other types of treatment will not work.
Brain Damage And Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
The lack of oxygen can lead to a brain injury in a baby. Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) can lead to a brain injury if the baby’s blocked airways are not opened before permanent injury can occur. When dealing with meconium stained fluid, doctors must be on the lookout for a possible MAS condition. Failure to plan for the possibility of this condition, with signs and symptoms present, and the condition develops, can put the doctor on shaky ground regarding the standard of care if the baby suffers an injury. Because of all the threats meconium poses to a baby, the NICU team should be alerted for possible help with treatment.
Boston Law Group, LLC represents victims of birth injury and medical malpractice throughout Maryland. We can help victims in:
Prince George’s County
Anne Arundel County
St. Mary’s County
Was meconium present when your water broke and now your baby has a birth injury?
Don’t leave your child’s future challenges to chance.
Download our free birth injury e-book now to learn more.