As an expecting parent, I'd had a question for our doctor regarding whether the fetus breathes amniotic fluid (because so many web sites and such say that the baby practices breathing this way). My doctor said this was more of a modern day myth, and that the baby does not breathe amniotic fluid. It, in fact, could damage its lungs (not to mention possibly breathing in fecal matter, merconium) this way. I found one web site with a paper describing fetal lung development that matched what our doctor described (and talked about lung liquid). But tons of sites that off hand mentioned that the baby breathes amniotic fluid.
I'm just wondering if I could get a consensus as to exactly whether or not the baby breathes amniotic fluid. And another description, in layman's terms, of what happens during lung development.
Jan 13, '04
by NICU_Nurse, ASN
In utero, your baby's lungs are filled with amniotic fluid (which is essentially composed of shed skin cells, fetal urine, etc.) and are "inflated". The baby doesn't receive oxygen this way; your baby gets his/her oxygen through your umbilical cord. I have seen sites that mention something about the baby "practicing breathing motions" while in utero, but if any site is claiming that they actually breathe while they are inside of you, it is incorrect.
When your baby is born vaginally, the act of squeezing through the vaginal opening basically compresses the baby's chest and squeezes out that fluid. When an infant is born via c-section, he/she misses out on this natural squeezing, and thus is prone to more respiratory complications than if it had been born vaginally.
If meconium (which is the baby's fecal matter- a thick, slick, sticky, evergreen colored stool) is passed while your baby is still inside of you, it can cover the baby's skin (including the face and mouth) and can get into the oral cavity while the baby is still within your amniotic sac. When the baby is born and takes his/her first breath, it may actually inhale that meconium, as Mimi mentioned, which can be a serious problem. If a baby is born after passing meconium inside of you, the doctors wouldn't stimulate the baby (like you see in the movies- a pat on the bottom? Though that, too, is a misrepresentation; stimulation usually comes from rubbing the baby, not hitting!). Instead, they'd quickly take the baby to a warmer while suctioning his/her mouth and throat to get the meconium out before the baby tries to breathe.
Last edit by NICU_Nurse on Jan 13, '04