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Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Failure to identify signs of Meconium aspiration syndrome, and managing it in a timely and effective manner may amount to medical negligence.

newborn child in Chicago

Meconium is the baby’s first bowel movement. It is tar-like, and contains bile, amniotic fluid, intestinal cells and water. Although it generally does not create a problem, in some situations it can endanger the life of the baby.

Meconium aspiration syndrome is a serious condition, which arises when a baby inhales a combination of meconium and amniotic fluid when he or she takes their first breath. It can cause partial or complete blockage of the airways. This condition is associated with fetal distress and signals that the baby is excessively tired and is unwell. In this post, our Chicago birth injury lawyer will discuss how this condition can lead to birth injuries.

What causes of Meconium aspiration syndrome?

When the baby’s oxygen supply is restricted because they are in distress, their intestinal tract may get stimulated and cause the relaxation of the anal sphincter. This may lead to the release of meconium. While not always life threatening, it can lead to serious complications if inhaled by the baby.

Some risk factors associated with Meconium aspiration syndrome are:

  • Post-term pregnancy
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Prolonged labor
  • Exposure to teratogens
  • Gestational hypertension or diabetes
  • Maternal respiratory disease
  • Maternal cardiovascular disease
  • Placental complications
  • Umbilical cord complications
  • Poor fetal intrauterine growth.

Symptoms of Meconium aspiration syndrome

Signs and symptoms of Meconium aspiration syndrome can become evident anytime during labor or delivery. These include:

  • Discoloration of a baby’s skin at birth
  • Presence of blackish /dark green streaks in the amniotic fluid
  • Low fetal heart rate before birth
  • Labored, rapid or suspended breathing
  • A low Apgar score
  • Limpness, lack of response to stimuli in a newborn
  • Signs of fetal post-maturity

Diagnosis and treatment of Meconium aspiration syndrome

If a baby is diagnosed with Meconium aspiration syndrome, they should be provided medical treatment immediately during the delivery process. Thorough examination is carried out after delivery, which includes tests such as chest X-ray and blood gas analysis to ensure that the baby is receiving sufficient oxygen.

If the baby who has suffered Meconium aspiration syndrome shows no signs of illness, the doctor may just monitor them for 24-48 hours, However, if the baby remains unstable, and has trouble breathing, doctors will likely supply oxygen, and provide further treatment which may include breathing support, IV antibiotics, intravenous fluids, surfactant therapy, rescue therapy, high frequency oscillation or another form of treatment.

Complications associated with Meconium aspiration syndrome

Babies who are seriously affected by Meconium aspiration syndrome and need medical ventilation are at risk for developing complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Hearing loss
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Chronic lung disease

There are various steps that doctors can take in case the pregnant woman or the doctor notices the presence of Meconium in the amniotic fluid. If the doctor determines the presence of meconium, they may recommend amino infusion to dilute the Meconium containing amniotic fluid, and wash it out before the baby inhales it.

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