WHY IS TERMOREGULATION IMPORTANT IN NEWBORNS?
Newborn can't regulate their own body temperature well at birth. The more mature the baby is in regards to weeks of pregnancy influences the ability to maintain body warmth.
Thermoregulation in a newborn is a neurological system adaptation to extrauterine life. Newborns lose body heat, and lose it rapidly, 4 ways because their neurological systems are not fully developed at birth:
•conduction (their warm body heat transfers to cooler objects that they come into direct contact with)
•evaporation from exposure of wet skin surfaces lost to the atmosphere
•convection (their body heats transfers to the air surrounding them)
•radiation (their warm body heat transfers to cooler objects around them)
Ineffective thermoregulation in newborns is due to immature compensation (adaptation to) the environmental temperature. In other words, when the newborn encounters conduction, evaporation, convection and/or radiation when they come into this world, hypothermia occurs and they lose body heat and become hypothermic. Once body heat is lost in a newborn, their immature system compensates by (here comes the pathophysiology of hypothermia, or ineffective thermoregulation in newborns):
•increasing their metabolism and increasing use of glucose and oxygen (to generate more heat)
•this causes their respiratory rate to increase leading to respiratory distress
•leads to hypoglycemia
•leads to metabolic acidosis
•leads to vasoconstriction (as the body attempts to retain heat)
•increasing cold leads to the production of fatty acids that interferes with bilirubin transport and can lead to jaundice
One aim (goal) of interventions is to maintain the environmental temperature between 89.6*f to 92.3*f (page 206, foundations of maternal-newborn nursing, 4th edition, clinical companion, by sharon smith murray and emily slone mckinney) so that the newborn does not develop an increased need for oxygen, an increased metabolic rate and maintains a normal blood sugar. This website details hypothermia in the newborn and the interventions for it (this article gives lots of really good nursing interventions):
"hypothermia of the newborn is due more to lack of knowledge than to lack of equipment. incorrect care of the baby at birth is the most important factor influencing the occurrence of hypothermia.
In many hospitals, delivery rooms are not warm enough and the newborn is often left wet and uncovered after delivery until the placenta is delivered. The newborn is weighed naked and washed soon after birth. The initiation of breast-feeding is frequently delayed for many hours, and the baby is kept in a nursery, apart from the mother. separation of the mother and baby makes it more difficult to keep the newborn warm; it also increases the risk of hospital-acquired infections and has an adverse effect on breast-feeding and bonding.
Newborns found to be hypothermic must be rewarmed as soon as possible. The temperature of the room where the rewarming takes place should be at least 97.6f. Cold clothes should first be removed and replaced with pre-warmed clothes and a cap. the newborn should be quickly rewarmed; if a warming device is used, the baby should be clothed and its temperature should be checked frequently during the rewarming process. It is very important to continue feeding the baby to provide calories and fluid. Breastfeeding should resume as soon as possible. If the infant is too weak to breast-feed, breast milk can be given by nasogastric tube, spoon or cup. It is important to be aware that hypothermia can be a sign of infection. Every hypothermic newborn should therefore be assessed for infection.
In a hospital a diagnosis of hypothermia is confirmed by measuring the actual body temperature with a low-reading thermometer, if available. The method used for rewarming depends on the severity of the hypothermia and the availability of staff and equipment.
In cases of mild hypothermia (body temperature 36.0*-36.4*c/96.8*-97.5*f) the baby can be rewarmed by skin-to-skin contact, in a warm room (at least 25*c-77*f).
In cases of moderate hypothermia (body temperature 32-35.9c/89.6-96.6f the clothed baby may be rewarmed:
•under a radiant heater;
•in an incubator, at 35-36*c (95-96.8*f);
•by using a heated water-filled mattress;
•in a warm room: the temperature of the room should be 32-34*c/89.6-93.2*f (more if the baby is small or sick);
•in a warm cot: if it is heated with a hot water bottle or hot stone, these should be removed before the baby is put in;
•if nothing is available or if the baby is clinically stable, skin-to-skin contact with the mother can be used in a warm room (at least 25*c/77*f).
•the rewarming process should be continued until the baby's temperature reaches the normal range. The temperature should be checked every hour, and the temperature of the device being used or the room adjusted accordingly. The baby should continue to be fed.
•feeding should continue, to provide calories and fluid and to prevent a drop in the blood glucose level which is a common problem in hypothermic infants. If this is not possible, monitoring blood glucose becomes important and an intravenous line should be set up to administer glucose if needed.
•at home, skin-to-skin contact is the best method to rewarm a baby with mild hypothermia. For best effect, the room should be warm (at least 25*c/77*f), the baby should be covered with a warm blanket and be wearing a pre-warmed cap. The rewarming process should be continued until the baby's temperature reaches the normal range or the baby's feet are no longer cold. The mother should continue breast-feeding as normal.
•hot water bottles or hot stones can be dangerous: they may easily cause burns as the blood circulation in the cold skin of babies is poor. They should therefore never be put next to the baby. If used to warm a cot, they should be removed before the baby is put in.
•if the baby becomes lethargic and refuses to suckle, these are danger signs and it should be taken to hospital. While being transported, the baby should be in skin-to-skin contact with the mother during transportation.