Breathe amniotic fluid?

  1. Hello everyone,

    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.


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    About tomten3000

    Joined: Nov '03; Posts: 6


  3. by   Mimi2RN
    The baby does have fluid in it's lungs, but I don't believe it "practises breathing" before delivery.

    The danger with meconium is that the baby may inhale the mec with it's first breath. If this goes below the vocal cords and into the lungs, the baby could become very ill. If possible we do not stimulate immediately after delivery, but tranfer the babe to a warmer, to check and if need be to suction below the cords.

    hope all goes well with your baby.
  4. by   NICU_Nurse
    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
  5. by   tomten3000
    Thanks for your answers!
  6. by   becca.utns

    This site talks about babies "practicing breathing" in utero @ 32 weeks. I thought it strange when I read it.

    NICU Nurse explained it perfectly and that is exactly what we learned last semester also. I don't know where the website got that info.
  7. by   nurseamena
    Here is an interesting fact: Fetal breathing movements can be detected by ultrasound as early as 10 weeks'gestation. Pretty amazing! Here is my source- Maternal, Fetal, and Neonatal Physiology by Blackburn
  8. by   eor'spal
    I don't have any OB-GYN nursing experience, but I thought counting "breathing motions" in utero was part of the biophysical profile they did when determining how well the fetus will do outside of mom. If I remember correctly, this "practice" becomes more prominent around 28 weeks. I don't mean air exchange is taking place, but the baby is preparing to breathe on his/her own after birth. Also, I know our unit sees its share of TTN babies who have trouble with clearing the lungs after c-section delivery. Am I anywhere near right about the biophysical profile, anyone?!
  9. by   mother/babyRN
    Fetal breathing definitely is part of the biophysical profile....