Premature Infant: Signs of Overstimulation

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Premature Infant: Signs of Overstimulation

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Extremely premature infants are born before the nervous system is mature enough to handle outside stimuli without becoming overstimulated. Such an infant is said to have a disorganized nervous system.

If your premature infant has a disorganized nervous system, you may notice physical reactions (destabilization) in the presence of too much sound, touch, movement, or light, including:

  • A drop in blood oxygen levels (oxygen desaturation).
  • A drop in heart rate (bradycardia).
  • A rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Looking away from you when you speak or make eye contact, a more subtle sign of overstimulation.

If you see such signs, give your infant some peace and quiet. The next time you're together, try only one stimulus at a time (such as touch or voice, but not both).

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised June 7, 2011

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