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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Meconium aspiration syndrome, or MAS, occurs when a newborn inhales meconium into its respiratory system. Meconium is a thick, sticky substance found in the intestines of a fetus or newborn.

What is going on in the body?

Meconium may be released into the amniotic fluid when a fetus is in distress. This may occur when a fetus is not getting enough oxygen or nutrients. If this happens, the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus goes from clear to green. As a newborn takes his or her first breath, or aspiration, the meconium can be inhaled into the lungs. It may partly or completely block the airways. This keeps the baby from getting enough oxygen.

In developed countries, 8% to 20% of the babies born after 34 weeks gestation have meconium-stained amniotic fluid. As many as 1% to 9% of these babies develop meconium aspiration syndrome. MAS is a leading cause of serious illness and death among newborns.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Following are some of the factors that increase the risk of meconium aspiration syndrome:

  • fetal distress during labor
  • high blood pressure in the mother during her pregnancy
  • low levels of amniotic fluid in the uterus
  • placental insufficiency, which is the failure of the placenta to supply nutrients to the fetus
  • preeclampsia, a complication marked by swelling and high blood pressure
  • pregnancy that lasts 42 weeks or longer
  • smoking during pregnancy
  • use of drugs, such as cocaine, during pregnancy


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    Meconium Aspiration Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/24/01

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