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Meconium: When your baby's bowel movement is a sign of distress

Having a baby can be one of the most exciting yet challenging experiences of your life. Especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may have numerous concerns about your own or your baby's safety and overall health. Having an experienced, highly-skilled obstetrician by your side can help alleviate your fears. A doctor's guidance and support can help you stay as healthy as possible.

Your doctor can also make decisions at a moment's notice in the best interest of you and your child. At least, he or she should be able to do so. However, it's also good to be a proactive patient, so the more you know about certain things, such as meconium, the better informed you'll be and able to alert your doctor if any problems arise.

Baby's bodies kick into gear after birth

The human body is amazing. In the hours and days after your child's birth, his or her body is working to synchronize all the different functions that allow him or her to sustain life independently, outside your womb. Meconium is the term doctors use regarding a baby's first bowel movements. It is greenish-black in color and typically sticky in substance.

Signs of meconium before birth can be alarming

When you begin to labor, it is possible that your water sac might break, perhaps even before you arrive at the hospital. If you were to notice meconium mixed with the ruptured fluids, it could signify that your baby is in distress. It is definitely something you'd want to notify your doctor about right away.

The average obstetrician would want a mother who reported signs of meconium to immediately come to the hospital for observation. If a baby swallows meconium, it is not typically harmful. However, if he or she aspirates -- meaning, breathes in meconium -- it can quickly become a life-threatening situation. Meconium aspiration syndrome occurs when a baby inhales meconium and it gets in the lungs or blocks his or her airway.

Signs of alarm your doctor should notice

If, when your baby is born, the doctor notices that his or her breathing is too rapid or that his or her skin looks bluish, it is a sign of MAS. Apnea, a low APGAR score and labored breathing with grunting are also signs that your baby is in great need of immediate, specialized care.

Sadly, some doctors may fail to diagnose a condition that most doctors would quickly notice. A doctor may simply fail to notice a particular danger sign or might disregard a symptom of distress. If this happens, your child may be at risk for serious injury. In the past, many similar situations have led to litigation when parents have filed medical malpractice claims on behalf of their children.