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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

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Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Meconium Aspiration – Recovery

The vast majority of babies who aspirated meconium as a fetus or during or after delivery recover without permanent or severe effects that require long-term care. However, some babies that were born having done this may be at a higher risk of infection for the first few years of life.

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If a baby is found to have aspirated meconium either in the womb or during or after delivery, depending on the complications of the meconium aspiration, there are a number of different treatment options available that your doctors and healthcare team can pursue (more details on the “Treatment” page).

Depending on what treatment your baby requires, recovery time will vary from almost no time to situations where babies have permanent complications and will need special care and attention for at least a few years after birth.

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Specifically, a baby that has aspirated a very small amount of meconium usually requires minimal treatment. Typically, in these cases, doctors will suction out the baby’s airways (nose, mouth, trachea) to remove the meconium. If it is still having trouble breathing, the doctor might give it extra oxygen to help. Once all traces of meconium have been removed, and the baby has enough oxygen, they usually require no further treatment. In mild cases of meconium aspiration, the doctor to may want to apply oxygen for 48 to 72 hours. Your infant can potentially recover within 3 to 5 days. Note, however, that the doctor may want the infant on antibiotics for approximately 7 days if there are signs of infection.

If the baby is still having a hard time breathing, your doctor may want to intubate, in other words, put the infant on a ventilator. This requires sedation and, even if successful, may take a few extra days for the baby to recover from. It is likely, however, that babies that require intubation may have more serious implications from the meconium aspiration that require more treatment and more recovery time.

Some of these more severe implications include requiring “Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation,” or procedures (including surgical) to repair any lung damage. Recovery times for these procedures is likely longer and consistent with recovery times whenever infants need to undergo more invasive procedures. Finally, if your baby has aspirated meconium and has chemical pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue), your doctor may administer steroids and antibiotics to stave off infection. Generally, babies who have aspirated meconium may be at higher risk of infection and so, as noted above, in mild and severe cases, even after procedures, doctors may want to put the infant on antibiotics.

Note that part of the reasons doctors are often reluctant to rely on more invasive treatments is because the infant can be at risk of suffering damage, infection, and side effects from these procedures on top of complications. As such, recovery times from both the meconium aspiration and procedure will vary, and the amount of time your doctor may want to keep the baby in neonatal intensive care or just at the hospital for monitoring may also vary.