In a Swedish study, over 1,000 pregnant women attended one of two classes. One taught natural coping methods like relaxation and breathing techniques; the other emphasized pain relief. In the trial, thought to be the first major one of its kind, no difference was found in the use of epidurals between women when they went into labour: in both groups, just over half of the women chose spinal analgesia to reduce the pain of contractions, the BBC reports, even though 70 per cent of the women who went to the natural childbirth class employed the relaxation techniques they’d learned. What’s more, the proportion of vaginal births versus emergency Caesareans was the same in both groups, although in the natural childbirth group, there was a slightly higher rate of instrumental births (which involve forceps or a ventouse). Most women in both groups were satisfied with their experience. “Our conclusion is that natural childbirth preparation with psychoprophylaxis does not reduce the need for epidural analgesia or improve the birth experience, when compared with the standard form of antenatal education,” said study co-author Malin Bergstroem.