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.
"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 Prof Stefan Duschek, of the Tyrolean Private University UMIT, Austria.
The study also found that people whose partners were more empathetic achieved greater pain relief.
Writing in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain, the authors concluded: "This underlines the beneficial role of social support in pain relief and encourages the use of interpersonal strategies in 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."
The Telegraph, London