The Effects of Music Therapy on Infant Stress in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Preterm infants in the NICU are automatically predisposed to painful procedures, lack of skin-to-skin contact, exposure to harsh stimulants and receive reduced bonding time with parents. According to Smith et al. (2018), the stressful events that occur in the NICU have been found to have long-term effects on the infant’s future development. These effects may include “...an increased risk for future attention, language, and hearing disorders.” It has been found that “physiologic stress responses to acoustic events such as changes in heart rate, intracranial pressure, and oxygen saturation may have a significant impact on the preterm infant’s future neurologic development due to altered perfusion and oxygenation of the brain tissue” (Smith et al., 2018). The CDC (2020) defines a preterm infant as a baby being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy has been completed. The neonatal intensive care unit is defined as a unit of a hospital that is equipped to care for preterm newborns or dangerously ill infants. Stress levels are determined through physiological measurements, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight gain. The purpose of this Evidence-Based Practice review is to determine if preterm infants in the NICU exposed to music therapy have reduced stress levels in comparison to preterm infants in the NICU who are not exposed to music therapy. Nurses or other healthcare providers can use this information to prevent long-term physiological effects on preterm infants that could otherwise be avoided due to overstimulation found in the NICU.