Mother’s voice reduces pain for premature babies in intensive care unit
It’s not easy to be born, and when you come into the world earlier than you should, you need extra help, including painful beatings and beatings with various unfriendly medical devices. Fortunately, new research has discovered that one simple and inexhaustible thing can limit this pain and discomfort: the mother’s voice.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), in collaboration with Parini Hospital in Italy and the University of Val d’Aosta. They report that their findings demonstrate how important it is for parents to have access to babies during newborn care, especially since simply hearing a parent’s voice can significantly improve the experience of a premature baby during treatment.
Premature babies are all newborns born at a gestational age of less than 260 days or before 37 weeks and weighing less than 2,500 kg. As a result, their organs have not developed properly, which can lead to a number of complications. Thanks to modern medicine, these babies can survive with intubation, feeding tubes and regular monitoring. However, the system is flawed because these small bodies do not tolerate painkillers well. This is why specialists in neonatology departments resort to alternative methods of pain relief, such as wraps, sugar solutions and the administration of a pacifier (without any nutritional value for the child).
Previous research has already shown that the presence of the mother or father can have a calming effect on their babies (especially if spoken to in a soothing tone). This inspired Didier Grandjean, professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE) as well as at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (CISA) of UNIGE and their team to deepen the study of the influence of the mother’s voice over the premature baby.
For this, the specialists decided to follow the development of 20 premature babies at the Parini hospital in Italy. They encourage their mother to be present during the daily blood tests (the blood is taken by pricking the heel, not the arm). The scientists then compared the babies’ reactions to the injections under three different conditions – only when the mother was present, when the mother spoke to them and when the mother sang to them.
“For the purposes of the study, the mother starts talking or singing five minutes before the injection, during the injection and after the operation – specifies Professor Grandjean. – We also measured the loudness of the voice – ie. its ability to drown out the noise around us, as intensive care units are often quite noisy due to ventilators and other medical devices.
Using the Preterm Infant Pain Profile (PIPP), which assesses facial expressions and psychological signs of pain (heart rate, oxygenation), scientists found that the presence of the mother had a strong influence. When she’s not around, the PIPP is around 4.5, but drops to 3 when she’s talking to her child. The value drops by 3.8 when you sing to him. According to the researchers, this is explained by the fact that in “baby talk”, the mother changes her voice more often specifically for her baby than when she sings.
Oxytocin is also affected, dropping from 0.8 picograms per milliliter to 1.4 when the mother speaks, a significant change for the hormone often referred to as the “love drug”.
“We demonstrate the importance of parent-child reunification, especially in the delicate context of intensive care,” explains Manuela Filipa, one of the lead authors.
“Also, in this situation, parents take on a protective role and may feel more involved in trying to make their child feel as good as possible, which reinforces the basic attachment bonds that are commonly taken for acquired in completely exhausted children.” , concludes Grandjean.
The research is published in Scientific Reports.
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