EPIDURAL STUDY: US researchers have found epidurals do not slow the second stage of labour. Because a longer duration of this stage is associated with adverse outcomes, obstetricians routinely reduce or discontinue epidural pain management in an effort to expedite this main stage of labour, researchers said. But they suggest that this practice could be out of date. The new study, published in the Journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that an epidural has no effect on duration of second stage of labour — the stage which starts when a woman’s cervix has dilated 10cm and ends when her baby is born — compared with placebo. LISTEN UP: The best way to pick up on a person’s emotions is to close your eyes and listen to them talk, a study suggests. People tend to read emotions more accurately when they listen and don’t look. The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal American Psychologist, found that blocking out other senses and using voice-only communication “elicits higher rates of empathic accuracy”. “Listening matters. Actually considering what people are saying and the ways in which they say it can, I believe, lead to improved understanding of others at work or in your personal relationships,” said Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Yale University. PAIN THRESHOLD: Previous studies have suggested that hypochondriacs are more susceptible to pain and have a lower threshold or tolerance for it than those who have no health anxiety. But a new study from the University of Buckingham psychology department found that a whole range of people experienced pain in the same way — and personality appears to have no bearing on it. Published in the British Journal of Pain, experts analysed the reactions of 76 people who were told they were going to have their hand plunged into freezing water. They were then screened for how long it took them to report the first signs of pain, and for how long they could keep their hand submerged before being unable to bear it any longer. The results showed that even those people who, before the test, felt very anxious about the pain they would experience were in similar amounts of pain to those who were more relaxed.