Woe upon woes, my pregnant comrades. It seems that no amount of whale music, hypnotic chanting or scent-infused birthing rooms will take the pain of labour away. And here was me hoping for childbirth sans agony.
No seriously, I have been hoping I'd find the secret to overcoming excruciating pain while another human being attempts to make its way out of my body. I have friends who've done hypnobirthing, essential oils, chanting, and they've all said it made labour easier. And I believed them!
A new study by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden (hereafter known as the spoilsports) has shown that women employing "natural" methods of pain control are just as likely to need painkillers and did not have a better experience in labour than other mothers.
Apparently, says the study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), relaxation techniques taught in antenatal classes don't help much in labour.
To discover such splendid news, 1087 first-time mothers were split into two groups, one coached in relaxation techniques and one not. Use of an epidural in both groups turned out to be identical at 52%. Surprisingly, there was also no difference in how positively the women viewed their experience of childbirth.
Professor Philip Steer, BJOG editor-in-chief, said in The Telegraph: "The findings of this study are contrary to what many of us would expect.
"The lack of benefit from (these) techniques is disappointing, and suggests that parents' experience of childbirth is affected more by their personality and previous psychological orientation than by the relatively limited training that is possible during pregnancy."
I don't know about you, but I feel just as disappointed as Professor Steer. My previous "psychological orientation" suggests I'll be yelping in pain just climbing onto the bed. If the relaxation techniques don't work, what exactly will make the experience more bearable? I don't especially want drugs, unless it's absolutely necessary.
The message from the various experts that have commented so far on this breaking news is don't give up the antenatal classes, or your practised techniques. Relaxation exercises can help in more ways than one both pre and post-birth, and antenatal classes include a host of other useful information and support.
If you've used natural techniques to manage pain during labour I'd love to hear from you. What did you try? Did it work for you? Would you recommend it? Or did you opt for an epidural? Do epidurals always work?