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Study Finds 29-Week Fetuses Probably Feel No Pain

i'm not so much interested in the results of a recent study that claims that fetuses prior to 29 weeks can feel no pain and its implication for abortion policy. rather, i'm interested in the following quote:

"Not all physicians agree. Dr. K. S. Anand, a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said, "There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that pain occurs in the fetus." For example, he said, tiny premature babies, as young as 23 or 24 weeks, cry when their heels are stuck for blood tests and quickly become conditioned to cry whenever anyone comes near their feet. "In the first trimester there is very likely no pain perception," Dr. Anand said. "By the second trimester, all bets are off and I would argue that in the absence of absolute proof we should give the fetus the benefit of the doubt if we are going to call ourselves compassionate and humane physicians."
i must admit that kris and don't remember this to be the case and in fact, the nicu we remember was remarkable because it wasn't filled with screaming, crying kids in way that you might imagine. most of the time if you heard crying, it was from the "older" nicu infants or full term infants brought into the unit with complications.

it never really occured to us that we could have been in the intesive care unit for over a full month before odin was even capable of feeling pain.

and regardless of whether it's 29 weeks or 28 or 27, it does highlight just how much brain development still needs to happen with micropreemies outside the womb.

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8/24/2005 11:17:00 AM 2 comments


Hi there,

I've been following Odin since he was about 16 days old. What a remarkable wee man you have!

I was thinking about this blog entry and one thing came to mind with micro preemies and pain... How many micro preemies are on breathing assistance? Does this not hamper their ability to vocalize? I know from looking back at the pics, you had commented about Odin turning RED and getting rather agitated about things.

Personally, I think the hypothosis that micro preemies (and hence 24 wk fetuses) can't feel pain is rather flawed. You just can't always HEAR their discomfort, but when their sats and numbers reflect the stress, I'm sure that's indicitive of them feeling something!

Anyhow, a belated happy birthday to Odin. It's been a joy to watch him grow. It reminds me of my neice - born at 27 wks (weighed 1 lb 6 oz) almost 20 years ago. Now, shes in University, making TOP grades (in the French Immersion program too!) and you can't tell that she started life so precariously.

GOod luck!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:07 PM  


I check in on Odin from time to time. My daughter was born at 24 weeks a year ago. While in the NICU, I found your web site while researching ROP.

My daughter definitely responded the way the article describes... There was no sound because the vent tube was between her vocal cords, but her mouth would open like a scream and her body would shake like someon bawling. It was worse somehow when you *couldn't* hear it.

It's amazing what little fighters these kids are. I'm so glad Odin is doing well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:11 AM  

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this site chronicles the continuing adventures of my son, odin, who was unexpectedly born on the fourth of july at 25 weeks gestation, weighing 1 pound 7 ounces.

he's quite a fighter and you can always send him a postcard to the most current address listed here if you're inspired by his adventures. see the postcard project/google maps mashup to see a map of the postcards.

if you're new, you can browse the archives to catch up. and don't forget to watch a few movies that i made while we were in the neonatal intensive care unit. or if you want the abridged version and you can find a copy, you can read about his adventures in the november 2005 issue of parents magazine.

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