wait until you've had one normal vaginal birth. Once you've popped a baby out, your body knows the ropes, you don't have all that first time mom (or VBACing) anxiety and so you won't have to stress so much about the whole epidural, pitocin, more pitocin, baby in distress due to pitocin, c-section cycle. If you don't try it once, you will never know what you are missing. I know, there are so many stories out there about how epidurals are wonderful, but that is only because there is such a SMALL percentage of the population out there experiencing normal birth. I was just discussing normal birth vs. medicated birth with a fellow mom and the lack of incentive for a normal birth because it almost seems myth-like. Moms read about it in books but don't know anyone who has actually had one. This mom had an out-of-body experience giving birth that was WILD. How do you share the power of a birth that is beyond words? And what impact does your story have when the mom who hears it has heard 100 stories of medicated births to your one story of normal birth. So if you are considering the epidural, why not choose it after your body has learned the rhythm of birth (and try and make it to 7 centimeters).* And normal birthing moms, we HAVE to share our stories!
*If you opt for the epidural for medical reasons or other, waiting until your body is fully in active labor and assuring that baby is in a good position for birth will help you avoid unnecessary interventions. Studies looking at the link between early epidurals and cesarean delivery report a higher rate of cesarean delivery with earlier epidural.1
1 Ellice Lieberman, MD, DrPH and Carol O'Donoghue, MPH,MSN. "Unintended effects of epidural analgesia during labor: A systematic review" in The Nature and Management of Labor Pain: Peer-Reviewed Papers from An Evidenced-Based Symposium, edited by Judith P. Rooks, Carol Sakala, and Maureen Corry, Supplement to American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (New York: Mosby, Inc. 2002).