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What Is Meconium? Learn More About Your Baby’s First Poop

Not many know the medical term for the baby’s first poop, which is known as “meconium.” This can be seen in the initial couple of days passed by the baby after its birth.  Meconium is the first bowel movement, which the newborns pass for the first time in their initial days after birth (1).

In this article, we will discuss the appearance of the meconium, what it indicates if the baby passes it before or later than what is considered normal.

What is Meconium?

The first poop of the newborn baby is Meconium (1). It does not look like the usual stools and is thick, sticky and is green to brown to black in color. Meconium is completely normal and expected (1). The contents of it are what was present within the intestines of the baby when they were in the womb. The meconium is also made of fetus’s cellular debris like hair, skin and other secretions.

What Does Meconium Indicate?

When the mother is pregnant, the baby inside her swallow amniotic fluid and this is how they practice breathing. A little of this waste is secreted via urination back into the amniotic fluid, while the other waste continues to remain in the intestines of the baby till it is born. The passing of the meconium by the baby after it is born means that its intestines are functioning properly.

When is the Right Time for Passing the Meconium?

The meconium is passed within the first couple of days by the baby after it is born. After this, the baby passes the more usual-looking poop.

What Happens If The Baby Passes Meconium Early?

About 12% to 20% of the babies pass their meconium during the process of birth (1). The doctor will look for this by checking the color of the amniotic fluid, which changes color when meconium is passed.

Around 40% of the babies born past their due dates can also pass the meconium while they are still in the womb.

In some cases, early passing of the meconium can be a part of the natural development of the GI tract in the babies. Other more serious causes for early passage of meconium are: placental insufficiency, fetal hypoxia, peri-partum infection, drug use by the mother; oligohydramnios and preeclampsia.

What is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

Babies who have passed meconium before birth into the amniotic fluid can aspirate the meconium and this causes meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS). It is characterized by breathing problems, inflammation and in some cases pneumonia.  Meconium aspiration syndrome is seen more in late-term babies. However, about 2 to 10% of babies who have passed meconium before birth into the amniotic fluid will suffer from MAS (2).

The treatment for this depends on the symptoms of the baby and consists of: ventilator support, oxygen therapy, nitric oxide and medications known as surfactants.

How can Meconium Aspiration be Prevented?

Meconium aspiration cannot necessarily be prevented. So, early diagnosis and identification of the aspiration is the primary way for early treatment and better outcome in case of meconium aspiration.

Some of the causes of meconium aspiration syndrome can be related to the use of drugs and other health conditions of the mother. So if trying to prevent this condition, it is important to follow routine prenatal appointments regularly to help in identifying the problems before the meconium aspiration syndrome has occurred. 

What is meant by Meconium Staining?

It is also referred to as meconium-stained amniotic fluid and is relatively common and is used for describing the amniotic fluid color during the birth (2). The normal color of amniotic fluid is usually clear or straw-color. Meconium stained amniotic fluid looks greenish brownish in color. Stained amniotic fluid is a sign of fetal distress and it is important that a resuscitation team be nearby during the delivery for checking on the baby to see if there has been aspiration of meconium.

Stained amniotic fluid can lead to meconium aspiration syndrome in about 10% of babies (1). In case of infection or breathing problems, additional medical attention may be required.

Can a Baby Not Pass Meconium At All? What are the Causes for Not Passing Meconium?

It is rare, but it can occur, a newborn baby may not pass meconium and if the baby continues to not pass it till two 2 days after birth, then medical consultation should be sought for assessing the baby for medical problems (1), such as: meconium plug syndrome; Hirschsprung disease; meconium ileus; small left colon syndrome; ano-rectal structural irregularities and intestinal atresia.

Other reasons for the baby not passing the meconium can include: sepsis, hypothyroidism, premature birth, hypokalemia or hypercalcemia; use of medication or drugs by the mother during her pregnancy.

What to Do If Your Baby Passes Meconium?

When the baby passes the meconium, let the doctor know, as it is a sign of proper functioning of the intestines of the baby. After the baby has passed the meconium, change the diaper, as you would do when the baby poops. Use a soft wipe or a cloth to clean the area and always wipe it front to back, after which put on a clean diaper.

What Happens If The Baby Has Swallowed Meconium?

Swallowing meconium is not really a cause for concern as aspirating or breathing it in is. Swallowing the meconium need not be a medical problem, the problem occurs only when the baby aspirates the meconium when swallowing it.

What Causes The Baby To Pass Meconium In The Womb?

The baby can pass meconium in the womb into the amniotic fluid due to the natural development of the digestive system. Some of the other causes consist of reduced oxygen levels, decreased amniotic fluid; infection; problems with placenta; and drug use by the mother during her pregnancy.


It is normal to pass meconium till one or two days after birth and the color and texture can seem alarming to a new parent, but assuredly it is normal. If the baby passes meconium into the amniotic fluid before it is born, it is at risk for meconium aspiration syndrome. If it passes more than two days after it is born, then it can be an indication of intestinal blockage and other health issues. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 27, 2024

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