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Meconium passage in utero: mechanisms, consequences, and management.

Meconium passage in newborn infants is a developmentally programmed event normally occurring within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Intrauterine meconium passage in near-term or term fetuses has been associated with fetomaternal stress factors and/or infection, whereas meconium passage in postterm pregnancies has been attributed to gastrointestinal maturation. Despite these clinical impressions, little information is available on the mechanism(s) underlying the normal meconium passage that occurs immediately after birth or during the intrauterine period of fetal development. Birth itself is a stressful process and it is possible that fetal stress-mediated biochemical events may regulate the meconium passage occurring either during labor or after birth. Aspiration of meconium during intrauterine life may result in or contribute to meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), representing a continued leading cause of perinatal death. This article reviews aspects of meconium passage in utero, its consequences, and management.

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