A recent study says that, behaviour alone is not a reliable way of assessing pain in stressed newborn babies. We all know that babies cry whenever they need anything but this study came as a shocker.
Hence, doctors and nurses are not able to figure out the pain just by observing the behaviour of these kids. A cranky baby doesn't really mean that he or she is in pain.
According to University College London researchers, the hospitalised newborns, which are already stressed by their environment, have a much larger pain response in their brain following a routine clinical skin lance than non-stressed babies.
Lead author Dr Laura Jones said, "We know that repeated painful and stressful experiences in early life can negatively impact on the development of the central nervous system and our results suggest that controlling the stress levels of hospitalised infants may not only reduce their pain but also contribute to their healthy development."
Some highlights of the study about stressed newborn babies may not cry when in pain :
- The study was conducted by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University College London researchers.
- The behaviour and brain activity of 56 newborn babies were observed before and after a clinically necessary heel prick in their first days of life, simultaneously monitoring their stress.
- This disconnect between the behaviour of newborn babies under stress and their brain activity in response to pain has not been shown before and suggests that stress is an important factor in influencing how babies perceive and react to pain.
- In the babies with the lowest stress levels, brain activity and behaviour were associated with each other in that greater brain activity corresponded to a longer period of crying and/or grimacing.
- In the babies with highest stress levels, this association was broken: greater brain activity was not necessarily matched by a more marked behavioural response.
- The background level of stress in the babies was measured the using two approaches -- heart rate variability and the level of cortisol in saliva.
- According to the researchers each baby had a different level of stress due to natural variability in the population and their environments prior to the test.
- The results show that the amplitude of the pain that evoked brain waves was greater in newborns with high stress compared to those with low stress.
"Behaviour such as crying or facial responses is widely used as a measurement of a baby's pain experience. Pain scores used for babies are based on these observations as they can't speak. While these methods are very useful, our findings suggest that they may not be appropriate for babies who are already stressed.
We need to explore better ways to monitor pain, reduce stress and tailor our interventions accordingly," added co-author, Dr Judith Meek (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust).
This new study has altered the preconceived notion that newborns cry when in pain. So even if a child is not crying, he cannot be left unattended. It is advisable to keep a check on the newborn babies at frequent intervals.
This new study will motivate innovators to come up with something that can signal a newborn babies' pain. No one would like to leave their sweethearts suffering and they are too cute to resist.
With Inputs from ANI