A baby in the NICU

Welcoming a new baby should be a joyous occasion, but for some, their child’s birth is memorable for the wrong reasons. Each year, birth injuries affect approximately 30,000 newborns in the United States. 

Meconium is a dark green fecal matter produced by newborns. It’s the first feces the infant produces. Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) occurs when meconium enters the newborn’s lungs and causes respiratory distress. MAS is often preventable and may be grounds for a legal claim.

What Causes Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

Although babies in utero can breathe in meconium without provocation, the following risk factors increase the possibility of meconium aspiration syndrome:

  • Post-term delivery: Infants are more likely to expel waste if they’re born post-term, increasing the chances of ingesting meconium.
  • Preeclampsia, hypertension, and intrauterine hypoxia: Preeclampsia causes hypertension, which can cause fetal hypoxia. Lack of oxygen can prompt the infant to gasp, causing them to ingest meconium into their lungs. 
  • Stress: Infants may be in distress during birth, and this increases their risk of gasping and inhaling meconium during delivery, resulting in meconium aspiration syndrome.

Maternal diabetes is also a risk factor. 

The Symptoms of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Dark green stains from the meconium may be evident on the newborn or in the amniotic fluid. These symptoms may indicate the newborn has meconium aspiration syndrome.

Newborns may also display physical symptoms of MAS, such as:

  • Cyanosis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Limp body
  • Slow heart rate

What Is the Survival Rate for Meconium Aspiration Syndrome? 

MAS is fatal in 1.2% of cases. However, the mortality rate is higher in cases where pulmonary hypertension causes the infant’s meconium aspiration syndrome.

Although MAS can be fatal if it prevents the newborn from breathing, most infants with meconium aspiration syndrome recover. If ingesting meconium in utero leads to oxygen deprivation, newborns can suffer brain damage. It’s also possible for newborns to suffer lung damage, develop reactive airway disease, which affects their breathing when they’re ill, or develop a chronic lung disease.

Can Meconium Aspiration Syndrome Be a Result of Medical Malpractice? 

Newborns can suffer MAS because of medical negligence or medical malpractice.

Medical negligence occurs when medical professionals unintentionally harm a patient during delivery. Suppose the doctor delivering the baby overlooked the note on the mother’s chart indicating she has maternal diabetes. Because of this mistake, the doctor may not realize the increased risk of meconium aspiration syndrome and may fail to take precautions to prevent MAS. 

Suppose the doctor noted risk factors and failed to take precautions anyway. In that case, there are grounds to argue the doctor’s medical malpractice caused the newborn’s birth injury. 

Medical professionals may also be liable for medical negligence or malpractice if they fail to identify potential signs of MAS, diagnose the newborn, and begin treatment. 

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Has Suffered a Birth Injury

Although MAS has a high survival rate and many newborns recover, any potential birth injury should be diagnosed swiftly to ensure prompt treatment. Newborns with MAS may need the meconium suctioned from their lungs, and some need a ventilator or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help them breathe. You must report any concerns to medical staff promptly.

You should consult a birth injury lawyer if you suspect a birth injury. Birth injury attorneys understand the law and your rights if your newborn suffered a birth injury. They can advise you of the appropriate steps to take to ensure your child receives the medical care they need while gathering relevant evidence to support your birth injury claim.

Colorado allows victims two years to file a medical malpractice claim. However, your attorney has a better chance of locating critical evidence and witnesses if they begin their investigation promptly. 

You can help your attorney prepare your case by documenting the names of medical professionals present when symptoms were reported, contact information for other witnesses, and your baby’s symptoms. You should also keep copies of all medical records. If possible, take photos or videos showing MAS symptoms.

Let the Birth Injury Experts at Bachus & Schanker Help You

A Lady Justice statue in front of a gavel and a stack of books.

Bachus & Schanker’s legal team understands how frightening a birth injury can be. Our Victims’ Advocate team is ready to investigate your case, and our legal team will file a claim on your behalf. We’ll explain your legal options, help you calculate the damages you can seek, and explain the legal process so you know what to expect as your case progresses. We’ll fight for you to receive fair compensation while you focus on your newborn’s needs.

If you believe your child was injured at birth, give the experts at Bachus & Schanker a call.


Birth injury statistics. (2023).

Geis, G.M. MD. (2023). Meconium Aspiration Syndrome.

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. (2023). 

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS). (2022).


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