Meconium

Meconium in a nappy

Meconium in nappy
Image by Tonicthebrown (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Meconium is a thick, sticky, dark green to black substance accumulated in the intestine of a foetus during its life in its mother’s uterus, and passed through the anus as the first few bowel motions after birth. The presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus before birth is a sign that the foetus is distressed and should be delivered as soon as possible.

The vomiting and subsequent inhalation (breathing in) of meconium by the baby immediately after birth, can cause serious breathing problems for the baby including pneumonia or asphyxiation.

Meconium ileus is a blockage of the small intestine caused by thick, sticky, dried meconium. The baby is unable to eat, develops abnormal biochemistry and the bowel may rupture. The blockage may resolve naturally, with the help of special fluids given by mouth and in a drip, or may need to be removed surgically. This complication most commonly occurs with the congenital condition cystic fibrosis.

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(Last modified: 9th Oct 2014)

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