Managing Pain in Preemies

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preemieWith the advancements in modern medical technology, preemies and even micro preemies now have a much better survival-rate than ever before.  Babies that even a few decades ago would have had little chance of lasting a few hours outside the womb are now thriving.  Of course, with all of this medical intervention comes a lot of poking, prodding and potential pain for the premature neonates.  Pain isn’t just painful for these little ones, combined with the associated stress, it can actually impair their development.

How to Reduce Pain and Stress

Morphine has long been used for pain management in preemies.  It is relatively well-tolerated and a great go-to option for dealing with moderate to severe pain.  However, when babies are so small and under-developed that even a diaper change can be stressful and painful, morphine isn’t always indicated or appropriate.

Because being exposed to stress and pain can actually impair development, it’s imperative that it be managed somehow.  The natural coping method for an infant is to suck.  However, due to intubation and their tiny little mouths, pacifiers aren’t always feasible for preemies.  That is, until now.

A New Tool

Because standard pacifiers were not intended to be used by preemies or in conjunction with intubation, they were often a failed option.  While they could give comfort, not being able to properly suckle on them could actually lead to more stress.  That was until a new pacifier was born.

Smaller, and with a notch designed to work around intubation tubes without adding additional bulk, these new pacifiers have provided a dependable way to eliminate or reduce pain naturally and un-invasively.   The intuitive sucking allows babies to cope, and many caregivers and scientists alike speculate that it actually interferes with the perception of pain.  This in effect makes the baby perceive a higher level of comfort, even when stressed or in pain.

Does the Pacifier Really Help?

Research on over a dozen babies exposed to moderate pain (routine heel sticks) with and without the pacifier have demonstrated a marked difference in their reactions to painful stimuli.  Preemies who had access to the new pacifier during their procedures had both lower heart rates and better oxygen stats than those without.

So, what does this mean?  It opens up an entirely new way of caring for preemies.  It preserves their development by preventing their exposure to undue stress and pain.  It also provides peace of mind to parents and caregivers alike.

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