What's meconium?

Meconium is the fetal form of stool (think dark, sticky, “tar-like” poop) that your baby will expunge in the first few days of life. The issue comes when babe might pass it while in your belly. When the stool is passed and enters into the amniotic fluid, your baby can then inhale it. That’s called Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS) and can be potentially dangerous in that the inhaled meconium can partially or completely block the baby’s airways. Although air can flow past the meconium as the baby breathes in, meconium can become trapped in the airways when the baby breathes out. The meconium irritates the baby’s airways and makes it difficult to breathe.

Although 6% to 25% of newborns have meconium-stained amniotic fluid, only about 11% of them will have some degree of MAS. Treatments depend on the amount and thickness of meconium, but if your amniotic fluid looks to have meconium, your doctor might incorporate a technique called amnioinfusion during labor, where she’ll insert a small tube through your vagina into your uterus to infuse the amniotic fluid with sterile fluid.

Other treatments performed at delivery may include:

  • Suctioning the baby’s upper airways, like the nose, mouth and throat
  • Giving the baby supplemental oxygen
  • Tapping on the baby’s chest to loosen secretions
  • Antibiotics to treat infection