03/08/2013 02:41 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Give Me Drugs! The Great Epidural Debate

A friend of mine was pregnant with her third child when she posed the following question on Facebook:

Moms: I've been reading up on epi's because I'm really considering getting one this time around. I'm horrified at a lot of the stories of permanent side effects and I'm starting to quiver at the thought that 'au naturale' may be the best way to go again. I was just hoping to enjoy this birth a little. What was your epi experience like?

The response she received told me that this is a hot topic with veteran moms and moms-to-be alike. With my first baby, I had an epidural -- and thank gawd! I had been labouring for over eight hours and really and truly needed a break from the pain. Once I had the epi, I felt like I could relax and "enjoy" (I use the term loosely here!) the experience. However, the epidural did slow things down and actually REVERSED my dilation.

Imagine my disappointment when my midwife told me that I had gone from six centimetres to 4.5 centimetres. She may as well have told me that the baby was NEVER coming out!! I was so discouraged! In the end, I am glad I had the epi, though. If I hadn't, I think I would have been so exhausted and may have ended up having to have a C-section.

With my second child's birth, labour was fast and manageable. I was able to use nitrous oxide (AMAZING stuff, which actually did nothing for the me the first time around) to offset the pain. My son's labour was four hours from start to finish. With my daughter I pushed for two hours, compared to two minutes with my son. I am very grateful to have had both experiences and know how lucky I am to have had two births without any complications or negative after-effects.

I would say, unless you are completely opposed to drugs during birth (more power to you!!) keep the epidural as an option and decide once you see how your labour goes! Birth is not predictable and we just have no way of knowing how it is going to go!

This is a very individual decision and probably one of the first ones that we, as mothers, feel conflicted about. I wonder if this is due to our actual expectations around our child's birth or if it is how we think we will be perceived if we opt in (or out) of using drugs to manage labour.

What are your thoughts and experiences around epidurals?