Effects of early parent touch on preterm infants’ heart rates and arterial oxygen saturation levels

Authors

  • Lynda Law Harrison RN PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor and Director of Research, The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing
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  • James D Leeper PhD,

    1. Professor and Chair, Department of Behavioral and Community Medicine, The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences
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  • Mahnhee Yoon

    1. Doctoral Candidate, Department of Management and Marketing, The University of Alabama, College of Commerce and Business Administration, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
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Dr LL Harrison Associate Professor and Director of Research The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing PO Box 358 Tuscabosa Alabama 35476-0358, USA.

Abstract

A descriptive exploratory design was used in this study to evaluate the effects of early parent touch on the heart rates and arterial oxygen (O2) saturation levels of 36 preterm infants The infants were between 27–33 weeks gestahonal age at birth, and were free of congenital defects Infants were videotaped during parent visits on up to three separate occasions during the first month of life Parents were encouraged to interact with their infants as they usually would, and data on the infants’ heart rates and O2 saturation levels were recorded every 6 seconds on a portable computer that was interfaced with the infants’ monitors Mean O2 saturation levels were significantly lower during parent touch than during baseline periods on 45% of the visits, and significantly higher during parent touch periods on 19% of the visits O2 saturation variability was greater during periods of parent touch, and there were more abnormal O2 saturation values during parent touch than during baseline periods Mean heart rates during parent touch were significantly lower compared to baseline on 17% of the visits, and were higher during parent touch on 43% of the visits There were no overall differences in mean heart rates between baseline, parent touch and post-visit classifications, although heart rate variability was greater during periods of parent touch The results indicate that preterm infants’ responses to early parent touch are variable, and suggest that blanket policies that limit parent touch during the early weeks of life may not be appropriate It may be more appropriate to teach parents to modify the types and amounts of touch they provide based on the infants’ physiologic and behavioural cues

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