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British Study Says Premature Babies Feel Pain

Another study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found that premature babies feel pain as intensely, or even more intensely, than we do.

A research team [University College London] analyzed brain scans of 18 babies born anywhere from 25 to 45 weeks after conception before, during, and after nurses drew blood using a heel lance…

They found records of a surge of blood and oxygen to the babies’ brains during the procedure, showing conclusively that the pain registered in the sensory levels of the brain.

“We have shown for the first time that the information about pain reaches the brain in premature babies,” said lead researcher Professor Maria Fitzgerald [specialist, developmental neurobiology, Thomas Lewis Pain Research Centre at UCL].

“Beforehand, although we could assume it, we did not know for sure that these babies could feel pain.” Dr. Paul Ranalli [professor, neurology, University of Toronto] said last year in reference to the pain felt by premature babies, “The only difference between a child in the womb at this stage, or one born and cared for in an incubator, is how they receive oxygen—either through the umbilical cord or through the lungs. There is no difference in their nervous systems.”

Professor Fitzgerald conducted research in 1998 into the intensity of pain levels experienced by premature babies. She found that babies in the womb are more sensitive to pain than adults and older children.

“The premature baby cannot benefit from the natural pain-killing system which in adults dampens down pain messages as they enter the central nervous system,” she said at the time.

The British study backs up research conducted by Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center who said he and other specialists have found that babies feel pain before birth as early as 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Although previous research indicated that premature babies are capable of showing measurable signs of pain and distress, it was possible to dismiss the indications as bodily reflex reactions, not an experience of true pain.

Fitzgerald’s research team says the findings in this latest study are clear, and there is a potential for the intensity of the pain experience to affect later brain development.

Numerous studies have emerged over the past year that suggest premature or unborn babies feel intense pain, among them a U.S. study which used ultrasound videos to show unborn children as young as 28 weeks crying in the womb.

The emergence of these reports has led to efforts to create “pain legislation,” in an attempt to lessen the agony of abortion for the unborn child who is brutally killed.
New Study Finds Babies Cry in the Womb – "Even the Bottom Lip Quivers" [BBC News, 4Apr06; By Gudrun Schultz, Great Britain, 5Apr06]