I am a big medical dork. When my water broke and I went into labor, I wore my med school t-shirt into the hospital so that they would know I was a doctor (there are benefits). I also waited until the morning change of shift at the hospital to get a fresh anesthesiologist to give me my epidural. I had been having contractions for several hours and the pain was getting intense. Screw the Lamaze class stuff, I want Bupivicaine! My anesthesiologist was a woman and after I got the epidural I seriously wanted to give her a Rhett Butler-esque kiss for taking the pain away.
If you gave birth without any medications, more power to you. I salute you for you ability to deal with the pain. I just wanted to not be exhausted at the end of the labor. For centuries, indigenous tribes in the Amazon river basin have given hallucinogens to women in the final stages of labor. I'm not saying that you need to start looking for morning glory seeds, moonflower pods or strange mushrooms in your backyard. I'm just saying that there are many ways to deal with the pain of labor, pharmacologic or not. I actually felt so good after the epidural that I took a few short naps before the baby made it's glorious appearance. There are a few facts to know about epidurals.
-they don't always work (about 10% are ineffective)
-they can prolong the course of labor (it happened to me)
-they can make the baby sleepy (especially if the medicine is given for a long time or you get IV meds as well)
-they can interfere with breastfeeding
-they can have unfortunate side effects (spinal headache, bladder retention, infection, bleeding, etc.)
Like any medical intervention, you have to weigh the risks and benefits. Definitely talk to your OB about your anesthesia options. Drug-free birth is an option for some, but not for others.