Meconium Aspiration | Romanucci & Blandin
If your baby inhales a mixture of meconium (the baby’s first stool) and amniotic fluid and it gets into their lungs, meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) occurs and is a very serious medical condition. This can occur before, during or after delivery and is usually stored in the baby’s intestines until they are born, but sometimes, when the baby is still in the uterus, meconium can be released into the amniotic fluid before or during labor. This is usually the result of the baby being past their due date or if the baby is experiencing fetal distress. If meconium is released into the amniotic fluid, the baby may inhale it into their lungs, and this can cause airway blockage and constriction, inflamed airways, decreased oxygen or pneumonia.
Medical professionals must act quickly if meconium aspiration occurs and their primary goal should be restoring normal breathing in order to prevent complications. MAS occurs in approximately 5-10% of births and can cause very severe birth injuries if it is not managed properly, including:
What Causes Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?
If the baby becomes distressed, it can cause their intestines to contract and their sphincter may relax, allowing meconium to be released into the amniotic fluid. Causes of fetal distress generally come from not receiving enough blood of oxygen. There are several causes of meconium aspiration, including:
- Baby experienced low oxygen levels over a long period of time
- Baby experienced severe oxygen deprivation for a period of time
- Being past the baby’s due date. There may be a problem with the placenta or umbilical cord if the baby is past due, which can cause oxygen or blood deprivation
What are the Risk Factors?
The most common risk factors for developing meconium aspiration syndrome include:
- Baby is overdue
- Decreased oxygen (fetal hypoxia) to the baby while in the uterus
- Difficult delivery/ prolonged labor.
- Drug abuse by the pregnant mother
- Gestational diabetes
- Placental insufficiency
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
There are several different signs and symptoms which include:
- Fast heart rate on the fetal monitor
- Slow heart rate on the fetal monitor occurring at or after the peak of a uterine contraction
- Yellow or green appearance of the amniotic fluid
- Baby’s skin, nail beds or umbilical cord being stained green
- Baby not breathing or having fast or labored breathing after birth
- Bluish skin color (cyanosis)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Larger than average chest and rib cage
- Low Apgar score
- Baby’s blood having a low pH
- Meconium in the baby’s trachea
- Baby appearing weak and having loss of muscle and body mass at birth
- Baby being limp at birth
How is this Diagnosed and Treated?
Meconium aspiration can be diagnosed with one of more of the following tests, which include:
- Analyzing the baby’s blood and seeing that the blood is acidic (low pH), has decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide
- Chest x-ray that shows streaky or patchy areas in the baby’s lungs
- Listening to the baby’s chest and hearing abnormal breath sounds
If it is known that the baby is at risk for MAS, there should be fetal monitoring in order to prevent complications. If there is low blood or oxygen going to the baby, or if they have a slow heart rate, the doctors will need to quickly restore their blood flow and oxygen supply. If they are unable to restore the oxygen and blood supply, they will need to do an emergency delivery. If there is a failure to monitor the baby properly, or if the emergency delivery was delayed at all, it can cause injury, serious brain damage or even death of the baby.
MAS can be treated in one of the following ways:
- Breathing machine (ventilator)
- Clearing the baby’s airway
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
- Nitric oxide
- Placing the baby under the watch of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
- Radiant warmer to maintain the body’s temperature
- Steroid therapy
- Supplemental oxygen
- Surfactant therapy
Free Consultation with a Chicago Birth Injury Attorney
RB Law has experience with handling birth injury cases for problems resulting from meconium aspiration. If there was a failure to quickly deliver your baby when they were in distress, if there was improper monitoring of your baby or if your baby was not effectively resuscitated and they developed disabilities, you need to contact a proficient birth injury attorney right away to help you get the compensation you deserve.
If you have questions regarding your birth injury case, contact us today for a free consultation at (312) 458-1000, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.