Some Women Experience More Pain When a Partner is Present for Procedures

Oftentimes, doctors will suggest or invite a person's significant other to be there as a means of comfort and support. But recent research suggests that, for some women, having a partner present may cause more pain than comfort.

Painful medical procedures can be frightening. Oftentimes, doctors will suggest or invite a person's significant other to be there with them as a means of comfort and support. But the BBC points to recent research that suggests, for some women, having their other half present may cause more pain than comfort.


The study, which was published in the journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, found that women who avoid closeness in their relationships and don't trust their partners more than themselves tend to feel more pain during uncomfortable medical procedures.

Researcher took 39 heterosexual couples and asked them questions about how often they sought or avoided emotional intimacy and closeness with their significant other. The females were then hooked up to an EEG to read rain activity and subjected to a series of painful laser pulses with their partner in the room and with their partner out of the room.

The researchers found that the women who tended to avoid closeness in their relationships felt more pain when their partners were present, and the EEGs mirrored their sentiments, showing spikes in activity where the brain experiences pain and anxiety. Meanwhile the women who sought intimacy in their relationships didn't suffer more or less when their other half was in or out of the room.

This finding indicates that the usual doctoral advice of inviting a partner to be present to help a patient get through a procedure may not be the best course of action every time (particularly in the case of child-birth).

Katerina Fotopoulou, one of the authors of the study and Director of the London Neuropsychoanalysis Center at UCL, offered a suggestion to doctors:

“We recommend that health professionals ask their patients rather than assume the kind of social support they want. People know what they prefer.”

Read more at BBC

Photo Credit: Sam Caplat/Flickr

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