A hospital’s neonatal team will look for signs of meconium aspiration syndrome; if they find signs, the baby’s health might become critical. Whether a baby takes in meconium before or after birth, it can lead to blocked airways, surfactant suppression, or lung damage.
While the likelihood of long-term health issues is low, newborns have a high mortality rate with meconium-stained amniotic fluid (MSAF). MSAF leads to severe respiratory distress.
Often, there are other complications such as pulmonary hypertension or air leakage. While endotracheal suctioning used to be the go-to treatment standard, infants with MSAF now receive treatments like nitric oxide, surfactant, and ventilation. Some MASF babies will require neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care to receive oxygen or use a ventilator.
The symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome include a greenish amniotic fluid, meconium stains on the baby, wheezing or labored breathing, a slow heartbeat, or a limp body. Doctors often use x-rays and other testing to negate possible causes.
Treatment may last from a few days to a few weeks. It will depend on the amount of meconium inhaled as well as how a baby responds to treatment.