Stressed babies’ behaviour ‘not indicative of pain’

Behaviour alone is not a reliable way of assessing pain in stressed newborn babies, according to new research carried out by the UK’s University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH).

The researchers found that hospitalised newborns, who are already stressed by their environment, have a much larger pain response in their brains following a routine clinical skin lance than non-stressed babies. However, there is no equivalent increase in their pain behaviour.

According to the study findings, this disconnect between the behaviour of newborn babies under stress and their brain activity in response to pain has not been shown before. The researchers said it suggests that stress is an important factor in influencing how babies perceive and react to pain.

Study lead Dr Laura Jones, of UCL’s Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, said: “This leads us to question the use of behaviour alone as a way of assessing infant pain, especially in a stressful environment. In adults, stress can increase pain experience and our findings suggest that this is also true for babies.”ADNFCR-2094-ID-801842786-ADNFCR