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Meconium (muh-CO-nee-um) is the thick, sticky, tarry appearing fetal stool that is passed in the several days after birth (and sometimes before birth). It is the digested residue of swallowed amniotic fluid, which contains fetal skin and hair cells in abundance. Passage of meconium is facilitated by the ingestion of mother's colostrum. In general, any sort of stress to the fetus in the time shortly before delivery can cause the reflexive passage of meconium. This is of no consequence. If, however, the baby is in great distress, not only will he pass meconium, but he may have deep gasping respiratory movements and pull the meconium down deep into the bronchial tubes of the lungs (meconium aspiration syndrome). This can cause serious problems of pneumonia and collapsed lungs (pneumothorax). If the meconium has been present in the amniotic fluid for a few days, the nails and the umbilical cord will exhibit a characteristic greenish color.