Parental advocacy for pain management

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Read about the role that parents can play in easing their baby's pain. Parents should always ask how they can help relieve their baby's pain.

Key points

  • It is important for parents to not only provide physical comfort for their baby, but to communicate with their health-care providers and advocate for their baby.
  • Parents should be aware of the challenges of pain management and try to have realistic expectations about pain relief.

Parents are in an ideal position to act as advocates for their premature baby’s pain relief. In most cases, parental advocacy means being aware of the infant’s condition and communicating that information to health care professionals in a timely manner.

There is general agreement about the advantages of keeping parents informed and allowing for shared decision-making about treatment. However, in a busy NICU, it may be necessary for parents to ask questions to stay informed. Most hospitals and their staff encourage parent participation and will take steps to make this as easy as possible.

Parents should have an understanding of the types of pain their premature baby might experience in the NICU and of the ways available to relieve the pain. This will help them to advocate effectively. Given this information, parents can concentrate on helping make sure that their baby gets what is needed in order to prevent or treat pain most effectively.

Role of parents in pain management

In addition to providing as much comfort as possible to their premature baby, the most important role for parents is to communicate with those involved in their treatment. It can be difficult to witness a child suffering in pain. But if parents can remain calm and learn specific strategies to help their baby, they can reduce their pain and thereby speed up the healing process.

Parents should always ask how they can help relieve their baby’s pain, especially in advance of a painful event. For example, parents can ask for pain-relief medication for their premature baby prior to a procedure.

Being realistic about pain management

Parents should be aware of the challenges of pain management. In many cases, finding the right treatment may require trying out different strategies. Being aware of this should help you to cope with the frustrations that may be involved. It should also be understood that sometimes, a completely pain-free outcome may not be possible. Some painful conditions can be very difficult to treat. Expectations about pain control should be realistic. In some cases, it is better that parents concentrate their hopes on a gradual improvement rather than focusing on complete pain relief.

Last updated: October 31st 2009