Physiological Effects of Neonatal Management

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The resurgence of interest in the interrelationship and interdependence between the physiological and psychological aspects of being human (i.e. in wholistic health) and concern regarding attachment issues and dynamics also questions and bespeaks both of the quality of care given to newborns and the impact this care has on their ability to develop healthy attachments and personalities. This article addresses these issues in relation to how newborns are physically handled at birth and the impact that this has on their physical and psychological well being-most specifically, how the obstetrical and postpartal procedures affect the connective tissues which have been found through research to be not only physiological in substance but also psychological in nature.

The upsurge of interest in a wholistic approach to life and health reflects an increasing concern about the interrelationship and interdependence between the physiological and psychological aspects of being human. This concern calls into question the quality of care given to the newborn. Expectant parents are demanding changes in both the labor and delivery environment and procedures, which not only take into account their needs but also the needs of the newborn.

The work of Frederick Leboyer has challenged the traditional obstetrical procedures used in delivery and immediate postnatal management of the newborn. Klaus and Kennell's research has documented the sensory capacities of the newborn and their role in the attachment process between the newborn and primary caretaker.8 The dynamics of the sensory capacities and "cognitive" structure of the newborn have been further elucidated in "Factors in Neonatal Attachment, Part I: Newborns are People, Too!!13

The findings of Harlow, Montagu, and Prescott have clarified both the relationship and significance of touch in attachment formation and later personality development. Also, the research of Caffey, Salter, and Guarneschelli has brought to light significant data in the area of child abuse which has ramifications in regards to some of the traditional modes of neonatal management.

Research into the effects of Rolfingb and the role and dynamics of connective tissue (also referred to as fascia) in the body has delineated important factors regarding the relationship between the physiological and psychological responses to experience. Hunt's recent research has given further information on the dynamics of the physiological and psychological interrelationship within a person.

In view of this information, attention needs to be given to exploring the relationship of neonatal management to the newborn's ability to attach to the primary caretaker in an effective and healthy way. How is experience registered in the newborn? What is the link that unites the physiological and psychological factors of being a person? What is connective tissue, and how does it respond to touch and other stimuli? What is the significance of touch in attachment formation and personality development? How does this data relate to neonatal management?

In exploring these issues it is important to note that newborns are totally sensory aware; they have all five sensory capacities fully developed and functioning at the time of birth.13-24 Therefore, they take in the stimuli present in the birth environment. This data is processed on an emotional-physiological level since the newborn does not possess a rational cognitive structure for processing and communicating information. The way in which a newborn is responded to and handled during this time will determine the degree to which an infant is traumatically affected by the experience.13

NEONATAL MEMORY

Memory is the ability to intellectually retain, recall, and reaccount past experiences, and to provide verbal data and description of specific past events. Because newborns do not have a developed complex vocabulary, they neither remember nor reaccount events in the way just described. …