Study: Newborns, Especially Preemies, Experience Too Much Pain

Pain that newborns experience from routine medical procedures can be significant, especially in premature infants, a new AAP study finds.
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While not all premature babies experience complications, being born too early can cause short-term and long-term health problems. Preemies are more likely to struggle with everything from heart problems and breathing issues to delayed development and impaired vision. As if that weren't enough to worry about, now comes a new study that reveals the pain newborns experience from routine medical procedures can be significant, especially in premature infants with more intensive health needs.

And here's something else: According to the research, repeated exposure to pain early in life can create changes in brain development and the body's stress response systems that can last welll into childhood.

To that end, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new policy statement that recommends every health facility caring for newborns use strategies to minimize the number of painful procedures performed. The statement also recommends routinely monitoring and treating pain in newborns with a greater emphasis on proven non-drug interventions.

Authors of the statement said that one way to effectively reduce pain during procedures is by giving newborns sucrose and glucose. There are concerns, though, that their excessive use can affect neurological development. The authors did, however, suggest other safe and effective interventions like skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, which currently aren't used as often as they could be.

The policy statement, "Prevention and Management of Procedural Pain in the Neonate: An Update," will appear in the February 2016 issue of Pediatrics, although it was published online today.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

1 Comment

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