The infants born before the 37th week of gestation are considered as preterm. Premature birth may have several consequences including low birth weight (LBW). Infants born with the weight below 2500 g are known as LBW. Birth weight can be a proper characteristic of healthy neonate. Integrated interventions, including massage, simulate uterus environment for direct growth of an infant through the target route; hence, such interventions can be beneficial to the premature infant.
Therefore, the current study aimed at comparing the effects of massage therapy with or without physical exercises on the weight of premature infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The current randomized, clinical trial was conducted on 45 neonates born at 30th to 36th weeks of gestation with the weight below 2500 g admitted to the NICU of Shohada Hospital in Bandar Lengeh, Iran in 2017. Infants were classified into three groups of 15 as massage, massage with physical exercise, and control. Infants in the massage group were massaged with olive oil in the morning and noon after feeding. The massage took 15 minutes and was repeated for five consecutive days. The massage with exercise group received extension and flexion for five minutes after the massage. The control group received no treatment intervention. All the infants weighed the day before as well as the 5th day of the intervention using a fixed scale. The weights were recorded and analyzed using SPSS version 22. Paired and independent samples t-tests and analysis of variance were used for data analysis. The P value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The study protocol was registered in the Iranian Registry of Randomized Clinical Trials (ID: IRCT20170520034039N3).
The three groups were homogenous in terms of birth weight, gestational age, and newborn age. After the 5th day of the intervention, the results of the two groups of massage and exercise-massage were compared with that of the control. It was observed that those two groups gained more weight in comparison with the control group. More weight gain was also observed in the exercise-massage group compared with the massage group, but the differences were not statistically significant (P = 0.65).
The results of the current study showed that massage with or without exercises may lead to gaining weight in LBW infants. Massage may lead to weight gain; therefore, knowledge about this issue might be useful in the weight gain of the neonates.
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