A new study suggests it is not always beneficial for the mothers for fathers to attend the birth of their child.
Researchers at University College London gave 39 women moderately painful “pinprick” laser pulses on their fingers both with and without their partners present.
Katerina Fotopoulou, who led the study, said that the pain was not always alleviated by the presence of the men, especially among women who said they avoid emotional intimacy in their relationships.
“Overall, this study suggests that partner support during pain may need to be tailored to individual personality traits and coping preferences,” Dr Fotopoulou said.
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Fathers are more likely to be in the delivery room for their child's birth today partly because of the increase in family planning in recent decades, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas).
"Comprehensive family planning services mean couples today are able to make decisions about the timing and size of their families, and become parents together through choice, not by accident," said Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at charity bpas.
"Far from feeling forced into the delivery suite, dads want to be there to share the experience and support their partner," she added.
One in five fathers avoids being in the delivery room when their baby is born, according to a new poll of around 500 parents.
However the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) said the number of fathers who help their parters through labour had risen "dramatically" since the 1960s.
In 1960, only one in ten fathers was in the delivery room, compared to 95% today..
A quarter of all babies born in England and Wales in 2011 were born to women from overseas, with Polish women having more children than any other non-UK group, new figures show.
In 2011, there were 724,000 births, an increase of 22% from 2001, with 539,000 of these born to UK women compared with 185,000 births to women from outside the UK, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.
- Polish women gave birth more than any other non-UK group, with 20,500 births
- Births to women from EU accounted for 55,000 births
- German women had the second largest number of births in, with 5,100 babies
- Women from Luxembourg had less children than any other group, with just 21 births
The number of babies being born in England and Wales has been increasing for the past 10 years since hitting a 25-year low of 595,000 in 2001.
Couples who chose to have their baby at home instead of a hospital "may expose the future child to unreasonable risk" of severe disability, experts have said.
Oxford University's Professor Julian Savulescu, and Melbourne University's obstetrician and gynaecologist Associate Professor Lachlan de Crespigny, said when problems occur at home there can be a delay in transferring women to hospital:
Delay in transferring to a tertiary hospital may result in permanent severe disability that will persist for the rest of that person's life.
Vital delays are inevitable in some cases. These can lead to disability, which was avoidable if the delivery had occurred in hospital.
Labour and delivery is a time of high risk, and home birth may expose the future child to unreasonable risk of potentially life-changing disability for benefits that may be comparatively small.
Home birth appears to be a risk factor for the future child...it should be discouraged, pending further research.
Women giving birth at home should be made more aware of the "silent tragedy" of long-term disabilities for their babies, particularly those caused by lack of oxygen during birth, according to experts.
Doctors and academics warned little had been said of the chance of disability as a repercussion of a home birth, particularly caused by oxygen starvation.
The authors said deprivation of oxygen - medically known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) - can lead to cerebral palsy, and motor and cognitive problems that can be detected at school-age.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, researchers accused "cost-cutting" of being partly behind "the enthusiasm for home birth" and that "couples should be warned of avoidable and foreseeable risks of future child disability,".
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Joan Morris, professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary University, says that the rate of birth defects has stayed "pretty much the same" and is similar to that of Europe.
Overall, our impression is that we're pretty similar to Europe although we have higher rates of abdominal defects, particularly among younger mothers.
People feel this is lifestyle related. Evidence suggests that risks are increased, particularly in lower body mass index mums - the thinner teenage pregnancies - but we can't say that's definitely the cause.
We also have higher rates of neural tube defects than other countries but it's not exactly clear why.
The most common form of anomalies in newborn babies in 2011 were congenital heart defects.
Here are the numbers of babies estimated to have been born with various anomalies in 2011:
- Congenital heart defect - 4,461 (28% of all babies born with a defect)
- Defects of the nervous system - 1,739 (10.1%)
- Problems with the digestive system - 1,223 (7.7%)
- Cleft lip or palate alone or alongside other defects - 1,143 (7.2%)
- Down's syndrome - 1,973 (12.4%)