What Is Meconium?

Understanding meconium will help new mothers know what it means and if it is dangerous in anyway.

Meconium is a common word you will hear during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. It is a completely normal thing but can also be very dangerous.

When babies are developing in utero during pregnancy they ingest amniotic fluid and excrete it everyday which passes out through your own kidneys and urination. Meconium is the first stool a baby passes which is also a build-up of material gained during pregnancy and which must be expelled after birth.

Sometimes babies will pass their first stool, meconium, while they are still in utero. Depending on how severe it is and how close to delivery it happens, it can be dangerous or no problem at all.

Meconium is a greenish-black color and very sticky, tarry in its texture. If a baby passes it after birth there is no danger to it and it just naturally leaves the baby's body in the first few days after birth.

Meconium can pose real danger when it is passes in utero. A baby who becomes stressed for some reason during pregnancy may pass the meconium which then becomes mixed with amniotic fluid and something the baby can get into the lungs if not handled properly.

There is no way to know if meconium has passed until the birth of the baby. When the amniotic sac, or water, breaks, the color of it tells the story. A normal color would be a clear one and one with meconium could be either green or yellow. A yellow color indicates the meconium is very old and has been inside the uterus for an unknown amount of time. A green color means it is more recent and if it has particles to it, poses more of a health risk to the baby.

When meconium is noticed during labor and delivery is imminent, the practitioner will be ready with what is called a DeLee suction which is used before the baby takes the first breath after birth. The idea in mind is that any meconium that might be present in the baby's airway needs to be suctioned out before the lungs expand or the meconium will be aspirated into the respiratory system.

If a baby has been distressed by something like the umbilical cord being compressed during pregnancy or labor, the baby may gasp in utero and cause meconium to go further into the airway since babies do not fully expand their lungs until after birth and doing so prior is dangerous.

Once meconium has been aspirated into the lungs, it can cause a chemical pneumonia. These babies are at high risk of becoming very sick rather quickly. Babies with meconium aspiration will need antibiotics to treat infection and oxygen to help them breathe until they can do so unassisted.

Once an aspiration is noticed and dealt with, the chances of a baby recovering do exist, though difficulties can arise during the course of treatment following birth.

There is no way to prevent meconium from being passed before birth so new mothers should spend no time worrying about it. If it does happen, having a competent practitioner who can handle the situation is the best prevention of further difficulties.

© High Speed Ventures 2011