Meconium happens…

I am looking for a new term for “terminal meconium”. Meconium is the baby’s first bowel movements, which are sterile. ┬áSometimes a baby poops in utero. Likely this is a sign that he had some stress. Midwives and doctors are usually careful when they find meconium in the birth waters because they will want to make sure the baby doesn’t aspirate (suck into his lungs) the meconium with his first breath. Terminal meconium is much less worrisome. It is the bowel movement that a baby makes as he is being born. The baby doesn’t usually aspirate this because the meconium is nowhere near his mouth. Thus, “terminal meconium” or end poop, is not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, the name makes parents afraid that their child has pooped themselves to death. That is the association the word “terminal” has. I have even had moms who are watching their vigorous toddler running around be afraid of this term when they read it in the birth record. It just sounds scary! Usually a doctor or midwife will say “terminal meconium” just when the baby is (possibly) whisked away to a warming bed. The new parents are tired from the birth and suddenly become scared hearing “terminal meconium” pronounced. Then I have to reassure them that their caregiver is not concerned, terminal meconium happens. Being born while pooping and peeing is a good thing!
If you have a good substitute for the term “terminal meconium” let me know. I think we should change it. Bring on the ideas!

By Teresa Bailey

Teresa Bailey is a master doula in Pittsburgh

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