Little known in the maternal world, meconium is the name given to the newborn’s first feces. When parents see their feces for the first time, they are almost always a little concerned, taken by surprise, due to their color, which is a very dark, consistent, and viscous green. It is expelled in very little quantity, but it contains all the substances that the baby absorbed from the amniotic fluid; the meconium being basically composed of epithelial cells of the intestines, water, lanugo, amniotic fluid and bile. Its elimination is not a problem, on the contrary, only what is no longer needed is expelled, since its function is only to block the child’s intestinal system so that it does not work during pregnancy.

Eliminating meconium is a good sign, as it indicates that the baby’s intestine is functioning well. It is during the first 24 hours after birth that the newborn eliminates meconium, precisely because of the first breastfeeding that, in addition to having the power to clean the intestinal system, stimulates excretion. Thus, the intestinal system is able to function properly. If meconium is not eliminated, the baby needs to be tested, as this may be an indication of an intestinal obstruction or some paralysis of the digestive system.

In what cases does meconium pose danger?

There is an important issue regarding meconium that soon-to-be mammas need to be aware of: when the baby is born after 40 weeks of gestation, there are many chances that the baby will aspirate meconium because of its excretion still in the womb, which can cause serious problems. Rarely, it happens that the baby expels meconium before 34 weeks and according to doctors this can only happen for two reasons: 1) because the baby has experienced some fetal suffering, which is when the placenta ages and begins to lack oxygen, making breathing difficult, or 2) because the intestine is working very well, which is a good sign. 

When delivery is not done in time or something happens to the baby while still in the womb or during delivery, the baby may have stomach pains that cause his anal sphincter to release meconium into the amniotic fluid. In some cases, complications occur such as the baby aspirating meconium, reaching the lung and compromising the airways, and, as a consequence, having difficulty breathing. This complication is called meconium aspiration syndrome.

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome 

It can lead to varying degrees of respiratory failure, which will depend on the amount and consistency of the meconium the baby absorbed before delivery to find out how much it affected the newborn. Some factors that cause the baby to expel meconium in the amniotic fluid, include:

How can I avoid it?

Experts often say that it is very difficult to know how to prevent it, but, what can and should be done is for the medical team responsible for the expecting mother to monitor her and remain alert close to the 40th week of pregnancy. 

One of the signs that the baby may be experiencing fetal distress is their heart rate that can increase or decrease. You can also pay attention to whether or not the baby keeps moving often, because when there is little oxygen, the baby avoids moving to preserve it. 

Despite the risks of meconium aspiration syndrome, there are usually treatments and there are no deadly consequences – good news as it is almost impossible to prevent meconium aspiration, as the mother has no control. However, some precautions during pregnancy are recommended, such as: preventing urinary infections during pregnancy and not over-stimulating the baby.