Increased Frequency of Skin-to-Skin Contact Is Associated with Enhanced Vagal Tone and Improved Health Outcomes in Preterm Neonates.

Author: Marvin MM1, Gardner FC1, Sarsfield KM1, Travagli RA2, Doheny KK1,2
Author Information:
1Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, The Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.
2Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Conference/Journal: Am J Perinatol.
Date published: 2018 Sep 7
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1669946. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 209

OBJECTIVE:  An estimation of the individual's ability to cope to environmental adversity, that is, stress resiliency, can be extrapolated by measuring cardiac vagal tone, that is, high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV); indeed, higher HF-HRV is associated with health and developmental advantages for preterm neonates. Previous studies show skin-to-skin contact (SSC) improves stress resiliency; however, linkages between SSC and HF-HRV on outcomes have not been assessed. We aimed to test the hypothesis that increased SSC frequency would enhance HF-HRV, reduce neonatal morbidity, and improve developmental outcomes.

STUDY DESIGN:  Weekly electrocardiograms and clinical data were obtained from 101 preterm neonates. SSC frequency was determined from the electronic medical record.

RESULTS:  At postnatal week 1, frequency of SSC and HF-HRV were positively correlated (p =.02); further, multiple stepwise regressions showed higher HF-HRV and SSC predicted reduced days on ventilation and oxygen, and shorter hospital stay (p < 0.001). Higher HF-HRV predicted lower postmenstrual age (PMA) at discharge (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSION:  Higher SSC frequency was associated with increased HF-HRV during the first postnatal week. SSC and HF-HRV uniquely predicted diminished neonatal morbidity throughout hospitalization. Additionally, HF-HRV uniquely predicted earlier PMA at discharge. Augmenting SSC early in life enhances stress resiliency and improves health outcomes.

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PMID: 30193382 DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1669946