A newborn baby girl died last week at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood from a rare complication involving her inhaling meconium – fetal stools mixed with her placental fluid.

Immediately after the hospital obstetrics team delivered her, they noted that while in the womb, she had taken a large amount of meconium and fluid into her lungs. As a result, the baby developed severe respiratory distress from damage to her respiratory system.

They struggled to save her life, but she died an hour after she was born.

According to Hadassah, infants are born with meconium aspiration syndrome in 15 percent of all deliveries, but in the vast majority of cases, the doctors can save the baby from the serious condition.

The death rate is one or two per 1,000 live births.

Hadassah informed the Health Ministry of the tragedy and expressed its consolations to the family.

Meconium is normally stored in the infant’s intestines until after birth, but sometimes it is expelled into the amniotic fluid during labor, before delivery.

If the baby then inhales the contaminated fluid, respiratory problems may occur. When the fetus passes meconium to the amniotic fluid while still inside the uterus, it is usually when babies are “under stress” because their supply of blood and oxygen decreases, often due to problems with the placenta.

The clearest sign that meconium has been passed during or before labor is the greenish or yellowish color of the amniotic fluid. The infant’s skin, umbilical cord, or nailbeds may be stained green if the meconium was passed a considerable amount of time before birth. After the baby is born, the problem shows up as rapid or labored breathing, the baby turning blue, a slow heartbeat, and abnormal sounds in the lungs.

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