Maternal use of drugs and alcohol during gestation may have profound effects on neo-natal development. This includes infant behavioural problems, addiction, mortality, and congenital deformities. Later cognitive and behavioural problems can be initiated. Meconium is formed from the amniotic fluid swallowed by the fetus startig about the 14th week of pregnancy. This dark, tarry, material is passed from the neo-nates rectum in the first days after birth.
It is the best biological specimen for evaluating maternal-fetal drug transmition during pregnancy. But this is an after the fact approach, and we have options to mitigate the situation. Ideally a hair drug test should be done on the pregnant mother during the 2nd and 3rd trimester if there are concerns about drug use.
This would allow a greater window of opportunity to caution the mother about possible fetal health and social consequences. Habitual or addicted pregnant women using drugs can often be influenced when made aware of the consequences to their child.
A Meconium sample should be about 3 grams, a teaspoon or so. This quantity represents a record of about 20 weeks of maternal drug use. The sample is relatively stable at room temperature for at least 10 days, but should be shipped by overnight courier. Meconium can be stored in a refrigerated or frozen condition for extended viability. The testing period will take 3-5 business days. You will receive and interpreted report.
The most important collection factor is to obtain the entire amount of Meconium so as to evaluate the maximum time of fetal exposure. If only a portion is collected, the results may not be indicative of the situation.
Each Meconium portion passed is indicative of a different period of gestation, because of the viscosity of Meconium and the lack of mixing in the fetal intestine. Timely detection of in-utero drug exposure is critical to initiate the most effective and helpful procedures before there is any irreversible damage.