Mother’s voice can ease the pain of premature babies in the ICU, study suggests

The moment of birth can be a bit awkward for a baby as it moves from the comfort of its mother’s womb to a completely different reality. When the baby is born before the deadline, then, the experience can be even more confusing, uncomfortable, and even painful, mainly because it needs intensive care.

Fortunately, according to a new study, there’s a way to make the experience less traumatizing for babies born prematurely: the mother’s voice. The research found that the mother’s voice is capable of altering both the pain and the preterm’s oxytocin levels.

With the advancement of medicine, care for a premature baby is the most diverse, such as intubation, insertion of feeding tubes with all the necessary nutrients, analgesia, cardiac monitoring, among other technologies. But in addition to medical care, specialists already knew that the presence of the mother or father can help with treatment.

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Image: Reproduction/KamranAydinov/Freepik

So scientists in Switzerland, knowing the benefits of parental presence in the recovery of a premature newborn, investigated the influence of the mother’s voice. To arrive at the answers, the researchers followed up 20 premature babies at the Hospital Parini, in Italy, and asked the mothers to be present during the daily blood tests. In newborns, blood collection is done with a heel prick (little foot test), unlike adults.

So, the scientists followed the babies’ response in three different situations: a collection made with the mother present, one with the mother talking and another with the mother singing. “For the study, the mother began to speak or sing five minutes before the needle and after the procedure. We also measured the intensity of the voice to cover the surrounding noise, as intensive care units are often noisy due to ventilations and others medical devices,” says Didier Grandjean, professor and study leader.

The analysis was based on a profile that assesses the babies’ pain through facial expressions and physiological signs, such as oxygenation and heartbeat. The researchers found that, without the mother’s presence, pain levels reached 4.5, but dropped to 3.8 when they sang, and to 3 when they talked to the baby. Regarding oxytocin, a hormone that connects mother and newborn, there was an increase from 0.8 picograms per milliliter to 1.4 when the mother’s voice was heard.

Image: Reproduction/Aditya Romansa/Unsplash

Manuela Filippa, one of the main authors of the study, says that the work showed the importance of bringing the mother and baby closer during recovery in intensive care. “Parents play a protective role, they can act and feel involved in helping their child to feel the best they can be, strengthening the essential bonds of connection that are devalued at birth as a whole,” he adds.

You can check out the full study in the scientific journal Scientific Reports.

Source: IFL Science

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