Meconium in the amniotic fluid is seen as one of the signs that a baby is in distress during labor, and needs to be born quickly. In other to understand what this means, we should first know what meconium is. Meconium is the substance that lines a baby's intestines during pregnancy. Normally, this will be your baby's first (very sticky and tar-like) poo. In some cases, babies will have a bowel movement during labor, while still inside the uterus. Why and when is this a danger? Let's take a look.
Amniotic fluid is usually clear, with the exception of small bits of vernix, the substance that covers your baby's skin, floating around it it. When it is instead green or brown colored, it is safe to conclude that the baby has passed meconium. Meconium-stained amniotic fluid is not an indication of fetal distress all by itself, and can indicate git maturity instead. That is why meconium in the amniotic fluid is more common in babies that are overdue. But when a fetal monitor shows that heart tones are irregular as well, the baby is in trouble and should be delivered as soon as possible. Should this happen to your baby, your doctor is likely to either suggest the augmentation of your labor with the medication Pitocin to speed up the birth, or a cesarean section.
In addition to meconium being a possible indicator of fetal distress, there is also a risk of meconium aspiration syndrome once meconium has been passed. This refers to an event in which the baby breathes in meconium while in the uterus, before he or she is born. This can cause respiratory problems and even be fatal in some cases. Opinions about how to handle a labor once it has been confirmed there is meconium in a baby's amniotic fluid are divided. Some doctors err on the side of caution and will see meconium as a serious enough situation to warrant a c-section. Others only see it as dangerous if there are other indications of fetal distress. Other healthcare providers, particularly midwives, do not usually see meconium in the amniotic fluid as dangerous.