Meconium is the baby’s feces (poop). Sometimes this will be passed before the baby is delivered. This will mix with the amniotic fluid and has the potential for causing some problems. Most of the time there are no problems for the baby when this happens.
Meconium stained amniotic fluid occurs in about 20% of deliveries. It is more common in pregnancies that go past the due date and the longer past the due date the greater the chance of meconium. It can be a sign of fetal distress, when the baby is not tolerating labor or the intrauterine environment in general. Most commonly it is not due to any real problem but just happens to be present.
Meconium stained amniotic fluid is more likely to get infected than fluid without meconium. Signs of infection are monitored during labor and if infection sets in, antibiotics and sometimes c-section may be necessary.
If there is meconium in the amniotic fluid this will need to be suctioned out of the nose and mouth of the baby at the time of delivery so that the baby does not get the meconium in its lungs. There is a syndrome called meconium aspiration syndrome. This can happen when the baby gets the meconium in the lungs and then develops a type of pneumonia or lung infection. This can usually be treated in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with oxygen and antibiotics. In some rare cases, if the baby gets very sick it could require support on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). This is a very specialized machine that serves as a temporary lung for the newborn. This usually requires transfer to a large medical center as only a few centers offer this treatment. Fortunately, this type of extraordinary measure is rarely needed.
Meconium stained amniotic fluid is very common and it is nothing to panic about. Problems from this condition are rare. Simply suctioning the baby’s mouth and nose at delivery is usually all that is required to assure your baby is not affected from the meconium.
Yes, it is true, sometimes meconium happens.