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Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2004 Jun;18(2):205-20.

Pain and stress in the human fetus.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesia, Bristol School of Anaesthesia, Southmead Hospital, Southmead Road, Bristol BS10 5NB, UK.


It is not known if the fetus can actually feel pain, but noxious stimulation during fetal life does cause detectable stress responses. These responses cause both short and long-term changes in the central nervous system, which can affect subsequent pain behaviour. Reducing the stress response is known to be beneficial in children and adults and recent evidence suggests this is also true for the fetus. However, the optimal amount of suppression required and the best method of achieving this (opioid or regional anaesthesia techniques) remain unknown. Prevention and treatment of pain is a basic human right, regardless of age, and if the technique of fetal surgery is to progress then a greater understanding of nociception and the stress response is required.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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