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Natural birth classes 'do little to ease labour pain'

Women who attend natural birth classes are just as likely to need an epidural during labour as women who do not, a new study has revealed.
Women who attend natural birth classes are just as likely to need an epidural during labour as women who do not, a new study has revealed.

Researchers working at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden analysed more than 1,000 expectant women and the results were published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Around half of the participants attended classes to learn about natural coping methods such as relaxation and breathing techniques, while the other half attended birthing advice classes that focused largely on medicinal pain relief.

Notably, they found that around the same proportion of women from each group eventually opted for a spinal analgesia during labour in order to reduce pain, while rates of caesarean sections versus vaginal births were also comparable.

Commenting on the findings, Patrick O'Brien, a consultant at UCLH and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, explained that this was the first comprehensive study to compare the two approaches to child birth.

He said: "I'm not suggesting discarding relaxation techniques completely.

"They could still help people feel more in control and more relaxed. But this research may temper the statements of the more pro-natural people."

A study carried out last year by Newcastle University found that many more women are now going into labour believing that they can do without epidurals, even though around one in four women need pain relief in labour.

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