Meconium passage in newborn infants is a developmentally programmed event normally occurring within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Intrauterine meconium passage in near-term or term fetuses has been associated with fetomaternal stress factors and/or infection, whereas meconium passage in postterm pregnancies has been attributed to gastrointestinal maturation. Despite these clinical impressions, little information is available on the mechanism(s) underlying the normal meconium passage that occurs immediately after birth or during the intrauterine period of fetal development. Birth itself is a stressful process and it is possible that fetal stress-mediated biochemical events may regulate the meconium passage occurring either during labor or after birth. Aspiration of meconium during intrauterine life may result in or contribute to meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), representing a continued leading cause of perinatal death. This article reviews aspects of meconium passage in utero, its consequences, and management.
Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians
After completion of this article, the reader should be able to describe the composition of meconium, to outline the timetable of fetal gastrointestinal development, to summarize the theories of fetal meconium passage, to describe the effects of amniotic fluid meconium, to relate the clinical outcome in the presence of meconium, to describe the condition of meconium aspiration syndrome, and to review the use of amnioinfusion for amniotic fluid meconium.