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Meconium can be a warning sign that an unborn baby is not coping with the stress of labour. If aspirated (breathed in), meconium can also be a danger to the baby’s life and health.

Midwives and obstetricians must recognise and react quickly to signs, such as meconium, that the unborn baby is not getting enough oxygen during labour. The neonatal team must act quickly to clear the baby’s airway of meconium and restore the baby’s oxygen supply at birth.  Where the baby suffers a brain injury because their delivery or resuscitation are negligently delayed, the child may be entitled to compensation.

Our cerebral palsy and neonatal brain injury lawyers recover compensation for children whose brain injury and disability were caused by mistakes or delays in maternity treatment or neonatal resuscitation.

Our service to our clients includes:

  • free advice from our medical negligence solicitors
  • claims handled by Chambers Directory and Legal 500 top-rated specialist birth and neonatal injury lawyers
  • Legal Aid or ‘no-win-no-fee’ (CFA) funding for the claim, depending on what is best for the child
  • interim (advance) payments to meet urgent needs
  • maximum value compensation settlements, structured to meet our clients’ current and future needs
  • Court of Protection deputyship (where needed)
  • special educational needs (SEN) advice and support (where needed)
  • anonymity orders (where advised).

Previous Cases

Multi-million dollar settlement for a boy who suffered a hypoxic brain injury and cerebral palsy as a result of  negligent delays in his delivery. He was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, having inhaled grade III meconium. He needed resuscitation and ventilation. His compensation settlement reflected the cost of meeting his extensive needs in the country where he now lives.

£4.6 million plus lifelong payments of up to £360,000pa for a child who suffered a hypoxic brain injury and devastating disability as a result of mistakes in her mother’s maternity care. Signs of fetal distress, including a suspicious CTG trace and meconium, were ignored and fetal heart monitoring discontinued. There were negligent delays in delivery, resuscitation and ventilation.

What is meconium?

Meconium is the medical name that is given to a newborn baby’s first faeces (poo).  Meconium is dark green,  thick and sticky and contains the material that the fetus ingested in its mother’s womb. Once the baby starts feeding on colostrum and milk, its faeces become more yellow in colour.

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Why is the presence of meconium significant during labour and delivery?

It is normal for a baby to pass dark green, sticky meconium in the hours immediately after birth. It is also common for the amniotic fluid, which drains from the mother in labour after her waters break, to be discoloured or ‘stained’ with meconium. 

During labour and delivery, if the amniotic fluid contains meconium this can also indicate ‘fetal distress’. When a fetus (unborn baby) is not getting enough oxygen their intestinal activity increases. This relaxes the anal sphincter allowing meconium to pass into the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. If the baby aspirates (inhales) meconium into its lungs, such as by gasping for oxygen, its airway can become blocked by sticky or lumpy meconium.

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What happens when meconium is a sign of fetal distress?

If dark green or black, thick or lumpy meconium drains from the mother after her membranes are ruptured (waters broken) this should warn the midwives that the unborn baby might be suffering from distress. This means that the labour and delivery must be monitored and managed carefully to avoid injury to the baby.

In these circumstances, correct care should include:

  • continuous electronic monitoring of the fetal heart rate and maternal contractions by cardiotocograph (CTG);
  • review by an obstetrician (doctor) if meconium and other abnormalities are present which necessitate urgent delivery of the baby;
  • expedited delivery by forceps, Ventouse (kiwi) or caesarean section.

Preparations should also be made for the birth of a baby who might have aspirated meconium, to avoid delay in restoring the baby’s oxygen supply. These preparations usually include warning the neonatal unit paediatricians (doctors who specialise in newborn babies) that a baby with possible meconium aspiration is about to be born. This allows the paediatricians to attend the delivery, fully equipped and ready if needed to clear the baby’s airway and lungs, and provide resuscitation or ventilation.  

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Can delayed action in response to meconium cause brain injury?

Delayed delivery of a baby who is suffering from hypoxia or lack of oxygen can cause permanent injury to their brain. Meconium is one of many warning signs which should alert midwives to the possibility that lack of oxygen is causing fetal distress.

Acute hypoxia – a short but profound period of oxygen starvation – can permanently damage a baby’s brain in a matter of minutes. Delayed action to clear meconium from the baby’s airway (to allow them to breathe) or provide resuscitation immediately after birth can extend the length of time that the baby is without oxygen. In some cases, this additional delay in restoring the baby’s oxygen supply after birth can turn a reversible episode of hypoxia into irreversible brain damage and permanent disability, or death.

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What injuries can be caused by meconium aspiration?

A baby who is suffering from respiratory distress as a result of meconium aspiration may show the following signs:

  • breathing rapidly
  • grunting
  • retraction (pulling in) or distention (pushing out) of their chest
  • cyanosis (skin is blue in colour from reduced oxygen saturation).

Severe meconium aspiration, such as after delays or failure to clear the airway and resuscitate at birth, can lead to permanent disability from:

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What compensation can you claim for a child with a hypoxic brain injury?

The amount of compensation that can be claimed in a medical negligence claim for a hypoxic brain injury depends on the individual’s injury, its impact on their life and the cost of meeting the additional needs, losses and expenses that are caused by their disability.  

Claims arising from HIE brain injury, such as cerebral palsy, may include compensation for:

  • pain, suffering and disability;
  • case management costs;
  • costs of care (professional or from family);
  • therapies, such as:
    • physiotherapy;
    • occupational therapy (OT);
    • speech and language therapy;
  • assistive technology (IT);
  • costs of surgery or medical treatment;
  • increased costs of suitable accommodation or home adaptations;
  • adapted vehicles, wheelchairs and additional transport costs;
  • loss of earnings and pension;
  • specialist equipment and aids;
  • special educational needs (SEN);
  • Court of Protection and deputyship;
  • other expenses directly arising from the injury and disability.
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Meet your team

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Susan Brown


Julie Marsh headshot

Julie Marsh


Richard Money-Kyrle headshot

Richard Money-Kyrle


Sita Soni photo

Sita Soni

Senior Associate - solicitor

Vanessa Wand photo

Vanessa Wand

Senior associate - solicitor

Tara Byrne photo

Tara Byrne

Associate - Solicitor

Rachel Makore headshot

Rachel Makore

Associate - solicitor

Alpa Rana headshot

Alpa Rana

Associate - solicitor

Fran Rothwell

Fran Rothwell

Associate solicitor

Ben Ireland headshot

Ben Ireland


Audrey Elmore headshot

Audrey Elmore

Medical records coordinator

Nicky Melville headshot

Nicky Melville

Professional support assistant

Susan Brown photo
Julie Marsh headshot
Richard Money-Kyrle headshot
Sita Soni photo
Vanessa Wand photo
Tara Byrne photo
Rachel Makore headshot
Alpa Rana headshot
Fran Rothwell
Ben Ireland headshot
Audrey Elmore headshot
Nicky Melville headshot

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"Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator"

Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator who adds real value to all her cases. I have always been impressed not just by her expertise as a clinical negligence lawyer but by the way she treats every client as an individual and works on their case as if it is the most important thing in the world, which to many clients it really is.

King's Counsel

"You have given fantastic support and guidance"

Boyes Turner have a great asset in Julie Marsh, she has handled my case with such professionalism and has kept me informed at every stage over the 6 years. She has given me guidance, support and that personal touch where I could ring or email at any time and she would always answer and give me answers to any questions I had. Would recommend without hesitation. Thank you

Boyes Turner Client

"I have been impressed"

Tara Byrne kept me well informed at all stages of my claim. I have been impressed with the way my case was handled, and the time scale within which a settlement was reached.”

Boyes Turner Client

"Very Professional "

Boyes Turner helped me through one of the toughest times in my life. They were very professional whilst remaining friendly. At times the process was emotionally tough but they were very patient with me and went through everything with me until I understood it. I cannot recommend them enough. 

Boyes Turner Client

"We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough"

Words cannot express how grateful we are to Susan and her team for the level of commitment and dedication shown to our family during a time which would be difficult for anyone. Susan demonstrates a calm professional manner which helped us to feel at ease. Her level of knowledge has proven to be the best in the field and we fully recommend her to anyone seeking to investigate birth injury claims. You can be confident that Susan and her team will scrutinise the medical notes thoroughly and will keep you well informed throughout the process. We are very pleased with the outcome of our child’s case and know that her work has resulted in justice being achieved. Our family will now be able to move forward in the knowledge that the finances are securely in place for our child to receive a suitable care package, purchase equipment and receive necessary lifelong therapy. We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough.

Boyes Turner Client