Is Debris in the Amniotic Fluid Dangerous?

QUESTION

Dear Ms Ultrasound,
I'm 36-weeks pregnant and had an ultrasound done yesterday. The report said there was a small amount of debris in the fluid. Can this debris harm the baby?

My mom said the baby could swallow it and choke? Is she over reacting, or do I need to be concerned?

ANSWER

It is quite common to see debris floating in the amniotic fluid in the late stage of pregnancy. There are a number of terms for this debris. The most common is Vernix or Vernix Caseosa.

Perhaps your Mom is thinking of meconium. This is present in the intestines from the second trimester. It consists of swallowed amniotic fluid, vernix caseosa, glandular secretions, and bile. The meconium becomes brighter on an ultrasound the closer you get to delivery. Your Mom may be trying to explain that some babies can aspirate the meconium during delivery. The baby doesn't choke in utero.

I would ask your doctor if you should be concerned about the amount seen, since I can't tell exactly what they saw. I can tell you it is something we see all the time in late pregnancy, and not to get too concerned over this finding.

-- Jane, RDMS

Comments

Palsy

I doubt it's your issue, but a friend of mine had a daughter who had inhaled meconium in the sac just before she left the birth canal, and developed palsy. She's a great kid, but I hear it isn't too uncommon to have feces in your sac at the end. Hopefully someone can inform me of something else? Or is this true?

Jane Foley

Jane Foley has worked as a Sonographer (Ultrasound Technologist) since 1979. Jane has lived and worked in many parts of the world including Saudi Arabia. She is a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or RDMS. She pulls a wealth of information from her experience in the field of Radiology and her interactions with such a broad cross-section of cultures she has visited. She now makes her home on the island of Maui with her English husband, Michael.