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Most intuitive mothers know that their babies are much more advanced in utero than is generally assumed. Research can back up what we already assume, so it’s worth noting.

 

New research suggests babies can tell the difference between pain and general touch in the days before they are born. University College London scientists said infants can distinguish the difference from around 35 to 37 weeks of gestation. They said the neural activity in the brain gradually changes from an immature state to a more adult-like state after 35 weeks of development. The researchers said they want to know more about when babies begin to sense pain so continued improvements can be made for hospitalized infants.

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Researchers using electroencephalography (EEG) recorded the brain activity of preemies in response to pain, comparing their pain responses from a touch or prick on the heels. The premature children responded to pain around a woman’s 35th week of pregnancy, about two to four weeks before normal delivery, according to a new study from University College London. These findings may explain why babies born prematurely have an abnormal sense of pain, and the findings could potentially affect treatment and care of preemies.

The results may have implications for the treatment, care and development of premature newborns, according to the researchers. Infant massage in the NICU is done with a soft, loving touch, noting carefully the babies’ cues. It may help these infants develop the neural activity in the brain by speeding up the growth of the myelin sheath around the nerves. It’s worth taking note and watching this group of studies; it might provide yet another benefit to massaging babies as early as possible, even in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

This information is another “piece” that moves us to realize that unborn babies are real people, and should be treated with the same care as newborns. Many of us knew this intuitively. It’s nice to get scientific feedback for our motherly intuition.

 

by Vimala McClure

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