A recent study states that the voice of the mother during an unpleasant medical procedure for her prematurely born infant can reduce the pain in premature babies. The results of the research were published in the scientific journal 'Scientific Reports. Prematurely born babies are usually removed from their mothers and placed in an incubator in intensive care. The little babies will go through regular medical treatments for several weeks which can be unpleasant from time to time, without being eased as they will be given too many medications, which are sometimes considered to be dangerous for the baby's growth.
While to understand that what will improve the baby's health, a group from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) collaborated with the Parini Hospital in Italy and the University of Valle d'Aosta discovered that during the period of the medical procedure when the mother spoke to her baby, the indications of the baby's oxytocin level which is the hormone that implicated in bonding and also connected to stress are seen to be increased substantially. This could affirm to improve pain in premature babies
These findings highlight the significance of parental engagement with premature newborns, who are already under a lot of stress during the time of birth, and how that presence affects their well-being and growth.
When a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, they are often kept in an incubator. They endure regular medical treatments such as intubation, blood sample, feeding through tubes, and more, to keep them alive, which might have an influence on their growth and pain management.
To give a little relief from this pain, another group led by Didier Grandjean, full professor at the Psychology Section of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE) and at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (CISA) of the UNIGE has taken part to witness the initial vocal interaction between the mother and the premature baby, as well as the implications of Maternal voices on the management of pain caused by routine practices.
The researchers tested this theory by following 20 preterm newborns at the Parini Hospital in Italy and asking the mother to be involved during the daily blood test, which is performed by collecting a few drops of blood from the heel.
The experiment was carried out in three phases throughout three days to evaluate the comparison. As per the three different phases, the first injection was given without the presence of the mother, the second was taken with the mother speaking with the baby, and the third with the mother singing to the infant.
These criteria were arranged in a randomised order. "For the study, the mother started talking or singing five minutes before the injection, during the injection and after the procedure," as per a Geneva researcher. "We also measured the intensity of the voice, so that it would cover surrounding noise, as intensive care is often noisy due to ventilation and other medical devices," the researcher added.
Firstly, the researchers looked to see if the baby's discomfort was reduced while the mother was there. To evaluate the process, the researchers used the Preterm Infant Pain Profile (PIPP), which provides a coding grid between 0 and 21 for facial gestures and physiological data such as heartbeat, oxygenation that indicate the baby's unpleasant sensations.
"In order to code the behaviour of premature babies, we filmed each blood test and judged the videos 'blind', by trained personnel, without sound, so as not to know whether the mother was present or not," noted Didier Grandjean.
The findings of the research are remarkable. It states that while the mother is away, the PIPP is 4.5, but it lowers to 3 when she chats to her infant.
The Geneva professor even highlighted the third phase by saying, "When the mother sings, the PIPP is 3.8. This difference with the spoken voice can be explained by the fact that the mother adapts her vocal intonations less to what she perceives in her baby when she sings because she is in a way constrained by the melodic structure, which is not the case when she speaks."
Dr Manuela Filippa, a researcher in Didier Grandjean's group and first author of the study, even stated that they instantly went to oxytocin, the attachment hormone, which prior research has previously connected to stress, separation from attachment figures, and pain. The researchers also discovered that when the mother chatted or sung and after the heel puncture for the blood test, oxytocin levels jumped from 0.8 picograms per millilitre to 1.4 picograms per millilitre.
These findings demonstrate the importance of the mother's presence during unpleasant medical procedures for preterm newborns. Manuela Filippa even highlighted that they illustrate here the significance of connecting parents and children together, especially in the sensitive environment of intensive care.
"Furthermore, parents play a protective role here and can act and feel involved in helping their child to be as well as possible, which strengthens the essential attachment bonds that are taken for granted in a full-term birth," Didier Grandjean concluded as per the findings of the research.