Birth Injury : Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Welcoming a baby should be a joyful occasion. Expecting parents spend months preparing a nursery, choosing a name, and getting ready for their new family member.
What parents don’t expect is a catastrophic birth injury. Sadly, for some parents, a birth injury turns the celebration of their child’s birth into a traumatic event, forcing them to spend days, months, or a lifetime coping with complications from their child’s injury.
Forcep marks, fractures, and facial paralysis are some of the most common birth injuries. Although it may be less common than some other birth injuries, meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) affects up to 10% of newborns. If your baby suffers from MAS, you know how frightening and devastating it can be.
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What is meconium aspiration syndrome?
In some cases, babies have their birth poop inside the womb. The first poop is dark green and called meconium. Most babies have their first poop after birth, but when they poop inside the womb, they risk ingesting meconium. MAS occurs when babies get meconium in their lungs.
Meconium aspiration syndrome symptoms include the following:
- Cyanosis: Cyanosis is a sign your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen. Infants with cyanosis have blue skin or blue-tinged lips.
- Difficulty breathing: Infants with MAS may breathe rapidly or struggle to breathe
- Discolored amniotic fluid: If your amniotic fluid has green streaks or stains, it’s a sign your baby pooped in the womb and means they’re at risk for MAS
- Limpness: Limpness refers to your newborn looking like they have poor muscle tone. They’re droopy and can’t keep their elbows and knees bent. Limpness is also a symptom of hypotonia, so a doctor should assess your infant to determine if it’s a symptom of meconium aspiration syndrome.
Doctors use the Apgar score to assess a newborn’s skin color, breathing, heart rate, muscle tone, and reflexes. A baby with a low Apgar score could have MAS, mainly if the amniotic fluid was discolored.
Your doctor can confirm MAS by using a laryngoscope to check their vocal cords for signs of meconium. Your doctor may also run a blood gas analysis to determine if the blood gas levels, oxygen rates, and carbon dioxide rates are abnormal. In some cases, X-rays can confirm the presence of meconium in the lungs. X-rays also rule out conditions such as pneumonia, which can cause similar symptoms.
Treatments for meconium aspiration syndrome can include oxygen therapy. Your baby will receive oxygen in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Oxygen therapy involves using an oxygen hood or other medical equipment to deliver oxygen if your baby is breathing but needs extra help.
Infants in the NICU are sometimes put on a ventilator to increase oxygen intake. They may also receive nitric oxide, a gas that helps get oxygen into their bloodstream and increases blood flow.
Some infants with MAS receive surfactant replacement therapy. Medical professionals use a tube to give your baby liquid surfactant, which is used to keep your baby’s airway open.
Your medical team may also use a warmer to stabilize your newborn’s body temperature or administer antibiotics to keep your baby from developing an infection.
Infants may need an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine in severe cases. An ECMO is a mechanical lung that performs the tasks the lungs usually complete. ECMO delivers oxygen and extracts carbon dioxide from the blood before returning the blood to the infant.
Complications of meconium aspiration syndrome include respiratory infections. Prompt treatment is usually effective, but severe cases of MAS can cause lung or brain damage.
The chances of your baby having MAS increase if you go past your due date. While only 5.1% of preterm babies have meconium-stained amniotic fluid (MSAF), MSAF is present in more than 27% of post-term deliveries. Maternal diabetes, preeclampsia, and fetal distress can also increase the risk of MAS.
Is a lawsuit necessary?
Health issues during pregnancy, complications during labor, and allowing a pregnancy to go post-term increase the chances of a birth injury such as MAS. Even if your newborn fully recovers, you could be billed up to $8,300 for a single day of NICU treatment. You may also have additional expenses, such as antibiotics and follow-up care. If your child suffers permanent lung or brain damage, you may face life-long medical and personal care costs.
When should you contact a birth injury lawyer?
Contact our catastrophic birth injury lawyers to discuss your child’s MAS case as soon as possible. We offer the legal support you need while dealing with a stressful and frightening medical emergency. The last thing you need is extra financial concerns, so you won’t see a legal bill until we win your case.
Proving medical negligence
Medical professionals are expected to provide all patients with an acceptable standard of care. The acceptable standard is the typical treatment for patients with the same condition. When medical professionals fail to provide standard treatment, run tests that are usually used to confirm or rule out medical issues, or provide unusual treatments, they may be guilty of medical malpractice.
Your medical records could justify grounds for a MAS lawsuit if any member of your delivery team was negligent.
How birth injury attorneys can help
Bachus & Schanker’s birth injury lawyers will let you focus on your baby’s health while we investigate your claim. We’ll gather the evidence to support your claim and prepare your legal case. We’ll help you calculate the damages you should seek, which include reimbursements for MAS-related costs and compensation for the emotional toll of your newborn’s health emergency.
Our legal team understands that having a newborn with health problems can be devastating. Our Victim Advocates Team can help you find financing options to help with the extra medical and personal expenses and answer questions about your case. Your attorney will let you know what to expect during settlement negotiations and fight for you to receive the maximum compensation available.
Lake, R. (2022). Managing Costs for an NICU Stay.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. (2023).
Oxygen Therapy in Infants. (2023).
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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus
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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.