(HealthDay News) – Preliminary evidence suggests that exposing preterm infants, cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), to the sound of their mother’s voice and heartbeat may reduce the number of cardiorespiratory events (CREs) they experience, especially in those >33 weeks of gestation.

Laura Doheny, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a study involving 14 preterm infants (26–32 weeks of gestation) to evaluate whether exposure to maternal sounds affects the rate of CREs. Infants were exposed to the voice and heartbeat sounds of their own mother or, when serving as their own controls, to routine hospital sounds four times per day.

The researchers found that, with age, there was an overall decreasing trend in CREs. During exposure to maternal sounds, the frequency of CREs was reduced, with a significant effect in infants who were >33 weeks of gestation (P=0.03).

“There is still much to learn about the exposure effects of maternal sounds and the development of the autonomic nervous system in the preterm infant,” the authors write. “However, our results point toward potential benefits of using non-invasive strategies to compliment current medical therapies. Our findings suggest that exposure to maternal sounds as an addition to routine NICU care should be further considered and rigorously studied.”

The study was partially funded by Philips Healthcare.

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