Did you know parental involvement can reduce pain in preterm infants?

In a 2019 literature review entitled Pain, Parental Involvement, and Oxytocin in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Filippa et al explored the many painful and stressful procedures preterm infants experience on a daily basis in the NICU, as well as the role of oxytocin and parental separation during this time of stress and pain.  As discussed by the authors, stress and pain can interrupt the development of the brain structure and function and change the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA).  Filippa et al found the cumulative effects of early parental contact and increased oxytocin can protect preterm infants from the negative brain and HPA changes associated with early maternal separation and painful experiences in the first few weeks after birth.  Maternal voice, in particular, can have a positive effect on how an infant recovers from a stressful or painful event.  Based on the literature review, Filippa et al made the following recommendations; parents should be actively involved in all aspects of painful procedures, and nursing staff should be actively involved in promoting and supporting parenting involvement in all aspects of painful procedures in order to increase oxytocin and combat the negative effects of painful procedures in the NICU.

As caregivers, how can we involve parents more often and create a truly family-centered care practice model in our NICU?  How can we increase maternal voice exposure, skin-to-skin time, and massage in order to decrease separation, increase bonding, and decrease stress?  How can we make each caregiving interaction more neuroprotective and developmentally supportive? Learn how Creative Therapy Consultants’ Customized Educational Offerings can answer each of these questions here. Designed to provide the hands-on training required to transform a culture and provide the care that our babies and families need and deserve. 

Filippa, M., Poisbeau, P., Mairesse, J., Monaci, M., Baud, O., Huppi, P., Gradjean, D., Kuhn, P. (2019) Pain, parental involvement, and oxytocin in the neonatal intensive care unit. Frontiers in Psychology. Doi 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00715.