A fascinating new study is shedding light on how simply holding your partner's hand can go beyond emotional reassurance and actually ease physical pain
Feeling the hand of the one you love clasping yours can flood you with a sense of peace. It assures you of their love and care. But a new study suggests its effects go beyond emotional comfort. When you hold your partner’s hand, it can actually help ease physical pain — even during labour!
When you hold your partner’s hand, it can ease labour pains!
The study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado suggests that touch has the power to act as an analgesic (or pain killer).
“This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch,” lead study author Pavel Goldstein explains to Medical Daily, adding how he drew from personal experience to conduct the study.
Dr. Goldstein’s wife was giving birth when he noticed how simply holding her hand helped ease her pain!
So he sought out to test the theory. With the help of teams from the University of Haifa, he gathered 22 heterosexual couples, aged 22 to 32, and examined how their brains responded to touch while experiencing pain.
When you hold your partner’s hand, your brains become in sync
During the study, the couples — all of whom had been together at least a year — were asked to hold hands while the women were subjected to mild pain. Minimal heat was applied to their forearms as their brainwave responses were observed through electroencephalography (EEG) while holding hands and when they weren’t touching.
Here’s what they found:
- Once you hold your partner’s hand, your breathing, heart rate, and brain activity becomes synchronised.
- Even without touching, EEG revealed some form of brainwave synchronicity.
- The higher the level of empathy one person feels for their partner, the greater the positive effect it has on brain synchronicity.
- When a couple’s brains are in sync, it can lessen pain sensations.
- This study is just the latest in a series of studies exploring interpersonal synchronisation.
How husbands can be more supportive during labour and delivery
Unless you have given birth, there is no way to fully grasp what labour pains really feel like. But partners can do their best to support mums-to-be — from being physically present to offering a listening ear.
Aside from frequent hand holding, here are some important reminders for dads-to-be who are also their wives’ birth partners!
- Keep your wife company and help them stay entertained during the early stages of labour.
- Wipe your wife’s face when needed and give them sips of water or ice chips (depending on your physician’s advice).
- Massage your wife’s shoulders and back.
- Help your wife walk around or change position in bed as needed.
- Provide emotional support by showering them with words of encouragement as labour intensifies.
- Help them use relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Be supportive, even when there are changes in your birth plan (e.g. choosing certain emergency pain relief methods).
- Make sure that you communicate with your healthcare provider throughout the process — tell them your wife’s needs, and even her fears.
- Serve as a “bridge” between your wife and their doctor, because childbirth can be overwhelming. Answer her questions about the labour process and tell her what is happening once your baby is born.
- Don’t forget to care for yourself, too! You can be the best birth partner if you see to your own needs — like, eating and resting — as well.