Causes of Meconium Aspiration

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The Causes of Meconium Aspiration
Meconium is a dark green substance that makes up an infant’s first bowel movement. Materials inside the uterus are ingested by the fetus which makes up for the fetus’s meconium. Most infants have their first bowel movement after birth. Occasionally a fetus can pass meconium in uteri. Aspiration of meconium and amniotic fluid can happen during any point of the labor and delivery. The fetus could aspirate this mixture of fluids while they are still in the uterus, coming through the birth canal, or when they take their first breathe after birth. This is referred to as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS.) When the baby aspirates a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid it becomes trapped in their airways making it difficult for the baby to breath. “MAS can affect the baby's breathing in a number of ways, including chemical irritation to the lung tissue, airway obstruction by a meconium plug, infection, and the inactivation of surfactant by the meconium” (Spear, 2008.) Six to twenty five percent of children born have amniotic fluid that is stained from meconium but only 2%-36% of those babies inhale the meconium (Spear, 2008.) Although meconium aspiration can be a serious condition, most cases are not severe. There are several causes for Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, most of which are unpreventable. These causes include, but are not limited to, fetal stress, an advanced gestational age, and smoking.

Fetal stress is the most common cause for Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. Fetal stress can be caused from breathing problems, umbilical cord prolapse or having a long difficult labor. When breathing problems occur, the fetus becomes hypoxic which speeds up the fetus’s intestinal tract and relaxes the fetus’s bowels causing the release of meconium.

Umbilical cord prolapse happens when the mother’s umbilical cord drops through the dilated cervix ahead of the baby. Umbilical cord prolapse can occur for several reasons...
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