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Quick Facts

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Nov 2020| Content last modified Nov 2020
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Meconium is the material that's inside your baby's intestines while still in your womb (an unborn baby is called a fetus). Even though a fetus doesn't eat food, it swallows the amniotic fluid that it floats in. This forms a sticky, dark green material in the fetus's intestines.

Aspiration is when you inhale some material into your lungs.

What is meconium aspiration syndrome?

If a fetus is stressed right before birth, the fetus can poop meconium into the amniotic fluid. Meconium aspiration syndrome is when a fetus inhales amniotic fluid full of meconium.

Inhaling plain amniotic fluid isn't harmful. But if the fluid contains meconium, the meconium can block your baby's air passages and irritate the lungs.

  • Babies have trouble breathing

  • They breathe quickly, grunt when breathing out, and may have blue-colored skin

  • Doctors may have to put a breathing tube in your baby's windpipe, and your baby may be put on a ventilator

  • Most babies survive, but they have a higher chance of having asthma later in life

What are the symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome?

Symptoms include:

  • Fast breathing

  • Looking like they're struggling to breathe

  • Grunting when breathing out

  • Blue skin from low oxygen levels

How can doctors tell if my baby has meconium aspiration syndrome?

Doctors suspect meconium aspiration syndrome if there is meconium in the amniotic fluid when your baby is born and your baby has breathing problems. Doctors may also do:

How do doctors treat meconium aspiration syndrome?

Doctors treat your baby with:

  • Suction to remove meconium blocking your baby’s mouth, nose, and throat

  • A breathing tube in the baby’s windpipe—the baby may also need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or ventilator to help with breathing

  • Antibiotics to prevent infection

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