22/01/2015 14:42 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Dads At The Birth Can Increase Partner's Pain


For dads, witnessing the birth of their child is one of life's most amazing experiences.

But according to new research, a father's presence in the delivery suite could do more harm than good - and actually increase their partner's pain during childbirth.

The good news is that if a couple are what the scientists describe as 'emotionally intimate' then all will be soothing and well with your baby's arrival into the world.

But if they're not the type who open up about their feelings, then dads are more useful pacing the corridor outside.

The revelations come in a study by University College London, King's College London and the University of Hertfordshire.

It found that women who lack emotional intimacy with their partner experienced more pain if their baby's dad was in the delivery room.

Scientists found the pain felt by 39 women given 'pinprick' laser pulses on their fingers was not reduced by the presence of their partner.

And in many cases the presence of a partner made the pain feel worse, and increased more for the women who most avoided closeness in their relationships.

Dr Charlotte Krahé of the King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience said: "We were interested in the role of individuals' patterns of seeking or avoiding closeness in their relationships.

"We wanted to test whether this personality construct, termed attachment style, might determine whether partner support decreases or heightens the experience of pain."

In the experiments women were given a moderately painful laser pulse on one of their fingers and asked to rate the intensity of the pain.

Researchers also measured how the electrical activity in their brains 'spiked' in response to the laser pulses, to examine the relation between pain reports and brain activity.

Each woman also completed a questionnaire to measure the extent to which she either sought or avoided 'closeness', emotional intimacy, in relationships.

The study found that the more participants avoided closeness in their relationships, the more pain they experienced when their partner was present both in how they rated pain and their brain scans.

But the presence of a partner had no significant effect, good or bad, on the pain felt by women who sought closeness in relationships.

Katerina Fotopoulou, a cognitive neuroscientist who led the work at University College London, told The Times: "Some women might feel more uncomfortable with their partner there. It raises questions about the one-size-fits-all approach.

"Overall, this study suggests that partner support during pain may need to be tailored to individual personality traits and coping preferences."

About 95 per cent of fathers are now present when their child is born, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, compared with about 10 per cent in 1960.

The National Childbirth Trust says most men describe being present when their child is born as 'one of the most moving moments' of their lives. But it cautions that some women may not want their partners present, or would prefer a female relative to support them instead.

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