The study, carried out by University College London, King’s College London and the University of Hertfordshire, suggests that women who lack emotional intimacy with their partner experienced more pain if they attended the birth.
The study 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.
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 avoidant participants were of closeness in their relationships, the more pain they experienced when their romantic 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.
Dr Katerina Fotopoulou of UCL’s Psychology & Language Sciences said: “Overall, this study suggests that partner support during pain may need to be tailored to individual personality traits and coping preferences.
“Individuals who avoid closeness may find that the presence of others disrupts their preferred method of coping with threats on their own.”
The research was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.