Above all, YOU decide how YOU want your birth to be (if you are low risk and can choose) and ultimately that will be the best decision for YOU since it will make you feel more confident & comfortable.
But I get asked frequently why I choose a drug-free birth, even the first time around, so here's my why.
Sure, society has made it common for us to "escape the pain" during labor, but I know that our bodies are not only capable of, but designed to labor with absolutely no interventions.
1. The less unnecessary interventions (including an epidural) the less chances for complications, and the shorter labor will be.
2. If the pain is taken away (for instance, with an epidural), oxytocin levels drop and contractions become fewer and less effective. Most often, oxytocin augmentation is then needed to keep labor moving. However, if you can manage the increasingly painful contractions with no drugs, they naturally become more frequent and more effective, and at some point, when oxytocin levels are high, endorphins are released. Endorphins produce an intuitive, dreamlike state and pain perception decreases, like “nature’s narcotic.” I then felt like I was "transported to another world, an out-of-body experience". If instead, you get an epidural and oxytocin augmentation, you do NOT experience this endorphin release because exogenous oxytocin (Pitocin) does not cross the blood–brain barrier. The mix of natural oxytocin and endorphins not only help through labor but affect in an eager mother and baby who are ready to greet each other calmly and begin breastfeeding much easily.
3. Epidurals may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop. Which can affect the blood flow/oxygen to your baby, which can stress him/her and lead to a C-section.
4. Freedom of movement makes labor easier, faster, and can avoid / minimize tearing. If you are unmedicated, you can walk, change positions and listen to EXACTLY what your body and baby need you to do during the whole labor, making the rotation and descent of the baby much smoother, using gravity to help your baby come down and allowing you to respond to the pain in an active way, which may speed up the labor process. Also, with no epidural, your baby is more alert to move how he/she is supposed to and facilitate the rotation and descent too. You can work in harmony, listening to each other better with no interventions.
5. With no pain restrictions you are able to feel EXACTLY when and most importantly how to push and avoid tearing (or tear less severely) since you not only know when to push but how intense or gentle to push. I 100% completely avoided tearing this way.
6. Women who choose an unmedicated birth usually have an easier postpartum recovery due to the impact of natural hormones (I felt "high in love" for weeks thanks to the endorphins) which aid in awareness, despite the lack of sleep, and reduce postpartum depression. Less tearing also aids in faster postpartum recovery, and of course, with no drugs you have no concerns for epidural side effects such as back pain, injection site reactions, itching from medication, etc.
7. Epidurals and interventions CAN affect the health of a baby during birth or newborn, like respiratory depression, decreased fetal heart rate, and/or making them less alert and oriented since their livers have to work hard to get rid of the drugs and toxins in their system, and their ability to process and excrete drugs is much less than an adult's.
And again, all of the above don’t mean you can’t have a short & smooth epidural birth and recovery.
I also want to add that, although I agree that bringing your baby to the world healthy is the ultimate goal, birth is also the best, most incredible, empowering, and magical life experience. And you SHOULD fight to do the research and find out what it is that you truly want, to make sure you do have the best experience possible. That means: YOUR birth type preference, YOUR best team, and YOUR best environment. If you are free to choose. Don't settle.