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Meconium Aspiration

Did Your Baby Inhale Meconium During Childbirth?

One concern that arises when an infant is under stress while still inside the mother's womb is the potential for the baby to pass meconium. The meconium can then mix with amniotic fluid and be inhaled by the baby prior to, during or even shortly after delivery. If your baby breathes meconium into his or her lungs, the thick fluid can cause swelling and lead to breathing problems and a diagnosis of meconium aspiration syndrome.

What Causes Meconium Release In Utero?

Meconium is the product of your baby's first bowel movement, before he or she begins to take formula or breast milk. There are several reasons that meconium may be released before delivery and potentially cause problems for your newborn, including:

  • Fetal distress
  • Problems with aging of the placenta that may stem from an overdue delivery
  • Diabetes, including gestational diabetes or as a regular condition affecting the mother
  • A prolonged or difficult labor
  • High blood pressure
  • A lack of oxygen prior to birth

If your newborn has inhaled meconium, it is possible that his or her ability to intake an appropriate amount of oxygen was compromised. In extreme cases, inhaling meconium can lead to brain trauma, developmental delays, seizures, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy or other lifelong consequences.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meconium Aspiration

In some instances, the fact that a birth was traumatic for a mother and a new baby is obvious:

  • Your baby may be pale in color or even have a blue tint because of the lack of oxygen.
  • A tube was inserted into your baby's mouth or nose to assist with breathing after delivery. This is known as intubating your baby.
  • Your baby was immediately taken to the NICU after birth

In other cases, you may not know right away that your child experienced a meconium-related birth injury; important signs to watch for include:

  • Whether meconium was present when your water broke or was broken by a member of your birthing team.
  • Whether meconium was passed during the delivery. Did any member of your birthing team note the presence of meconium in the birthing fluid or afterbirth?
  • Whether your child was able to breathe quickly after birth. Were there signs of labored breathing, fast breathing or a need for breathing assistance?

Your birthing team, whether your birth plan includes a home birth or an in-hospital birth, should know and understand the signs of fetal distress that could cause the early passing of meconium. If danger of aspiration presents itself, your obstetrician, midwife or nurse should be able to react properly, including inducing labor, attempting to speed the progress of labor or ordering a C-section.

Do You Have Questions About Whether Malpractice Contributed To A Meconium-Related Injury?

Not all injuries or trauma experienced during birth are the result of professional negligence or mistakes, but there are some that are. If you are concerned that your baby is suffering due to meconium inhalation during childbirth, please contact The Birth Injury Team. We are a team of experienced medical and legal professionals who can help you understand the medical and legal consequences of meconium aspiration. From offices in Philadelphia, we help families throughout the United States.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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