The age-old question of whether men should be in the delivery room with their partners may finally have been answered by scientists.
A trial involving 48 couples who took part in a test to see how much pressure they could stand while their index finger was squeezed hard, found having a partner present significantly raised their pain threshold.
When alone most managed just over 2.5kg of pressure, but that rose to around 2.8kg when their loved one was near.
The researchers say the trial confirms the analgesic effects of social support – even without verbal or physical contact.
“Repeatedly, talking and touching have been shown to reduce pain, but our research shows that even the passive presence of a romantic partner can reduce it and that partner empathy may buffer affective distress during pain exposure,” said Professor Stefan Duschek of University of Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology, UMIT, in Austria.
In 2017, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, found holding the hand of a loved on diminishes pain.
The team discovered that when an empathetic partner holds the hand of a woman in pain, their heart and respiratory rates sync and her pain dissipates.
Previous research by the same lab also found that the more empathy a man shows for a woman, the more her pain subsides during touch and the more physiologically synchronised they were, and the less pain she felt.
The latest study also found that people whose partners were more empathetic achieved greater pain relief.
Writing in the Scandanavian Journal of Pain, the authors concluded: “Our findings underline the beneficial role of social support in pain relief and encourage use of interpersonal strategies in behavioral approaches to pain management.
“The study provided evidence that the presence of a romantic partner is effective in reducing acute pain even without his or her active feedback, and that this effect increases with partner empathy.”