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Physical stimulation of newborn infants in the delivery room


Objective Neonatal resuscitation guidelines recommend that newborn infants are stimulated to assist with the establishment of regular respirations. The mode, site of application and frequency of stimulations are not stipulated in these guidelines. The effectiveness of stimulation in improving neonatal transition outcomes is poorly described.

Methods We conducted a retrospective review of video recordings of neonatal resuscitation at a tertiary perinatal centre. Four different types of stimulation (drying, chest rub, back rub and foot flick) were defined a priori and the frequency and infant response were documented.

Results A total of 120 video recordings were reviewed. Seventy-five (63%) infants received at least one episode of stimulation and 70 (58%) infants were stimulated within the first minute after birth. Stimulation was less commonly provided to infants <30 weeks’ gestation (median (IQR) number of stimulations: 0 (0–1)) than infants born ≥30 weeks’ gestation (1 (1–3); p<0.001). The most common response to stimulation was limb movement followed by infant cry and facial grimace. Truncal stimulation (drying, chest rub, back rub) was associated with more crying and movement than foot flicks.

Conclusion Less mature infants are stimulated less frequently compared with more mature infants and many very preterm infants do not receive any stimulation. Most infants were stimulated within the first minute as recommended in resuscitation guidelines. Rubbing the trunk may be most effective but this needs to be confirmed in prospective studies.

  • stimulation
  • neonate
  • resuscitation
  • respiratory support

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