Maternity Focus: The power of touch

By August 31, 2017PREGNANCY

Senior Midwife Marie Louise has kindly provided her expert advice for the Scarlet Journal for soon-to-be-parents. Here, she discusses one of the simple ways birth partners can comfort mothers and babies.

Scientists have proved that pain is reduced when partners hold hands as heart and respiratory rates synchronise to cut the level of discomfort.

Scientists found that when a man held the hand of his female partner as she was being subjected to mild pain, their heart and respiratory rates synchronised and her discomfort was reduced. When you go into labour although it might be a natural reaction to hold your partners hand but it may actually reduce the level of pain you experience.

Dr Pavel Goldstein, the study leader said: “The more empathetic the partner, the stronger the analgesic effect and the higher the synchronisation between the two when they are touching.”

“It could be that touch is a tool for communicating empathy, resulting in an analgesic, or pain-killing, effect.” I would never say something this simple will take the pain away but over years during my practice as a midwife I have noticed that women with very supportive and empathetic partners seem to cope better throughout labour and birth and seem more in control. Not only that I also noticed they tend to look back on their birth experience in a more positive light saying things like “he was just brilliant and I couldn’t have done it without him” rather than remembering the pain they remember the support and care from their partner. This helps build good foundations for a new family on love and trust, what a beautiful environment to be born into.

Furthermore, a very similar reaction happens when you hold your baby in skin to skin, their heart rate, breathing and temperature is regulated better. You should have skin to skin from birth for as long as possible to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb. It’s 15 degrees cooler, loud, light, dry and little overwhelming. Skin to skin helps to de-stress you both and start the bonding process.

All in all, science has proved that cuddles, hand holding, skin to skin and affection are some of the best things you can offer your loved ones.

Please note, whilst the evidence is around a man holding his partners hand, I feel sure that the results would be the same for any birth partner, including your Doula. The main thing is, that your birth partner holds your hand, communicates empathy and makes your feel safe.