by Norma
(Kingston Ont. Canada)

Question: My grand daughter was taken to the hospital early this morning because her water broke. I heard from a freind who was there that the baby had a bowel movement in the womb. Is this possible?

Answer: Yes, it is possible for a baby to have a bowel movement prior to birth. If the amniotic fluid is not clear when the water breaks, it's called meconium stained water. Meconium is the substance that is passed when a newborn has its first few bowel movement (in other words, it's baby poop.)

There are a few reasons a baby may pass meconium while in the womb. Many times meconium in the water indicates stress, as babies under stress often have a bowel movement. Babies who are older gestational age may also pass meconium, so it isn't unusual for a mom who's around 41 weeks pregnant or more to have meconium in the water.

So, what does this all mean for your grand-daughter? In most cases, it just means that the baby will be monitored more closely to make sure there are no other indications of stress, such as a deceleration in heart rate.

Meconium staining is not in itself usually much to be worried about. It can be a concern when it is part and parcel of other signs that baby is distressed. For the most part, though, it just causes a bit more monitoring.

The biggest concern with this issue is a baby aspirating the meconium. Meconium is a very sticky substance and can cause problems if it gets into the lungs.

Babies don't usually aspirate meconium unless they are put under stress during labor. Keep in mind that babies aren't triggered to take their first breath until after they are born, so it's not common that they will breathe in the meconium.

As a precaution in these situations,care providers will usually use a bulb syringe to clear a baby's nose and mouth to make sure they don't aspirate the meconium after they are born.

One way to keep baby from becoming stressed during labor and prevent meconium aspiration during labor is to keep birth as gentle as possible. Using pitocin to speed up labor can cause the uterus to contract vigorously than it normally might, and can further stress baby.

Also, vigorous techniques at birth such as vacuum or forceps can stress out the baby, causing aspiration, as well as internal monitoring. Obviously, sometimes these things are necessary. Just be aware of keeping birth as gentle as possible for the baby.

Overall, try not to be too worried about this. Meconium staining isn't a rare thing. Most of the time it's not a problem and all is normal.

Best of luck to your grand-daughter and congratulations!


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