Newborn screening primarily involves a blood test to help identify certain health issues that would not otherwise be seen as early in newborns. Unfortunately, this screening requires that blood be drawn from baby. There are two common methods to withdraw the blood – a “heelstick” and a venipuncture (from the back of the hand). The venipuncture is typically the more common approach because it is associated with less discomfort for the newborn. However, for obvious reasons, a venipuncture still causes some unhappiness in baby.
Making a newborn cry can feel bad enough to a new parent, but early negative experiences can also lead to higher anxiety and pain with future medical tests. This is why research has been done on ways to alleviate pain for baby during newborn screening. One method, oral sucrose (a sugar solution), has been found to have a pain-relieving and calming effect with infants receiving vaccinations, and might be as effective in treating pain associated with newborn screening blood tests.
While some hospitals will use lidocaine to numb baby’s hand before venipuncture, studies actually indicated that an oral sucrose solution was significantly more effective than lidocaine at reducing pain during venipuncture.
What does this mean for you?
Because lidocaine, which is often used for pain reduction in other medical procedures as well, appeared less effective at reducing pain during venipuncture compared to sucrose, it is safe to say using sucrose over lidocaine could be a better option. Although it is not clear if the sucrose directly affects pain levels or if it is simply a happy distraction, the result is the same – it appears effective in decreasing the stress a newborn feels during venipuncture.
Talk to your doctor about whether using oral sucrose could be right for you and your baby.