Newborns Feel Pain: The Headline That Almost Triggered My PTSD


Yes, I admit it. This HuffPost headline, “Surprising Study Find that Newborns Feel Pain Just Like Adults,” nearly sent me into a PTSD tailspin when I read it. Not because this topic is one I’ve pushed down deep inside. No, I talk about this topic when presenting workshops about medical trauma in kids. I’ve written blog posts about it. I spent a good portion of 2015 writing about how newborns feel pain for my book, “Does My Child Have PTSD: What to Do When Your Child Is Hurting from the Inside Out.” Even so, that headline nearly triggered my PTSD. Here’s why:

1. The first line of the article.

It begins like this: “Many doctors believe babies’ brains are not developed enough to feel pain…” The story gives the impression that this concept is a new discovery. But studies in the early 1980s conclusively proved that newborns feel pain. Conclusively enough that the American Academy of Pediatric Surgeons change their surgery protocols in 1986.

2. The use of the word “surprising.”

The fact that newborns feel pain is not surprising to any parent who has accidentally jabbed a newborn with a diaper pin or clipped a tiny cuticle with fingernail clippers. Nor should it be surprising to any medical worker who had drawn blood from a newborn or inserted an IV. We’ve all seen newborns respond to pain with screams and cries.

3. The words “new understanding.”

As in: “The new understanding of infant pain processing has some significant implications. For one, it suggests clinical guidelines for infants undergoing painful procedures should be revisited.” Instead of repeating what’s already been said, reread item #1 above.

How I Coped

I could go on. But in the interest of maintaining my mental health, I will instead explain how I coped with the headline instead of letting it trigger my PTSD.

1. I showed the article to my husband.

He agreed it showed a shocking lack of understanding of the medical advances about newborn pain in the last three decades. Knowing that my outrage was justified helped.

2. I moved on to something else.

Instead of dwelling on the article, I filed it in my blog post idea folder for later. Then, I thought about other, healthier things. Like my delicious new grandchildren. And preparing for speaking engagements.

3. I returned to the article when I had a way to address it constructively.

My way of addressing this trauma trigger was to write this post. To share with you this information in the hopes of helping families laboring under the misconceptions this article perpetuates.

4. I looked for the positives.

The biggest positive I identified was that my book about PTSD in children is needed. Desperately needed. Realizing that truth renewed my resolve to share about the book whenever and wherever I can, even if people get sick of it. (If you are one of those people, please accept my sincere apologies).

How Do You Cope with PTSD Triggers?

Not every PTSD trigger is so easily dealt with, but I hope the above steps help you the next time you’re blindsided by a PTSD trigger. I’d love to hear how you cope when your PTSD is triggered.

Jolene Philo’s book, “Does My Child Have PTSD?” is available on Amazon.

Follow Jolene Philo at her website www.DifferentDream.com and on Facebook at A Different Dream for My Child.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by KQconcepts


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

young woman alone unfocused background looking sad

How You Might Be Invalidating a Loved One's PTSD

The trauma we experience in life changes us, for better or worse. In a small or large way, it has an effect. Getting bitten by a dog can cause a fear of dogs. If you almost drowned, you might be afraid of water. Trauma can create fear that usually stems from survival instincts and are [...]
Ink sketch of a pretty girl and a colibri bird

When Trauma Sends Your Mental Illness Into 'Overdrive'

Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. My whole life in relation to my struggle with mental illness has been a roller coaster. I remember having symptoms of anxiety when I was as young as 3 years old, and depression since [...]
police officer

What I Want Police Officers to Know About People Who've Experienced Trauma

In my experience, members of the police force I’ve come across have been helpful and understanding. However, it is unreasonable to expect people without mental health training to be able to assist and avoid confrontation when someone is having a mental health crisis. Therefore, I thought it may be helpful for people with mental health [...]
Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Has Given Me My Life Back

When I was first diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I took my therapist’s advice and started taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills. I don’t like to take meds of any kind because I’m quite sensitive and seem to get a lot of side effects, but I needed them. I was suicidal, not getting [...]