I am going to be honest about my experience and what I have learned from other mothers and nurses through the years. I have had both a spinal and an epidural.
If I had to have another spinal I would just prefer they knock my ass out. My reason is this, my spinal failed and for 75 minutes I felt my first surgical birth. I cannot describe the excrutiating pain I was in, it leaves even me speechless. The thing with a spinal is that it is short acting -- meaning that once they put it in, there is a short period of time it will work -- after that it quits working. Also if they put the spinal in, and it fails -- there are no second chances, there is no redosing, there is no repositioning to make sure you have a solid block. In other words you are screwed if it fails. While it may provide a "denser" block, it may not offer you the best overall pain relief. You are likely to require more medicatoin during and after your surgery as well, especially if they use duramorph. The side effects of duramorph are irritating but can also turn into pain when you have an abdominal wound 5-7inches long.
While an epidural will not provide as dense as a block, meaning you should feel no pain but you can feel tugging and pushing, it can provide longer relief. Also when they put it in, they can wait to make sure that it covers completely and that the block is dense enough. If it moves to one side or the other, they can redose it and also position you to have the block cover that side or area. (I had this happen with no. 2) I could still feel my legs and move them, I could still feel pushing and tugging, but I felt ABSOLUTELY NO PAIN. I can tell you that this was my overall goal since I felt the first one and was drugged to the moon. With an epidural, you can also be redosed on the table should your surgery involve complications or you do begin to feel pain. Remember, with a spinal -- O well, you are screwed -- they will just pump you full of narcotics.
I continued to have my epidural after my cesarean births these last two times. It would intermintently dose it or I could as it was patient controlled. I could move my legs, feel my lower part of my body (had some numbness in the abdominal area and lower back) but I could sit up in bed. Yes, I SAT UP with both of my last births within minutes of being in recovery. I had my epidural left in until the next morning, about 17-18 hours total and before they removed it they dosed it -- so I had like a walking epidural for the next several hours. This is the time I have my cath and IV removed as well and get up for the first time. I can literally say that my cesarean births with an epidural were pain free and that it definitely helped with my overall immediate recovery.
I have to say that with my epidurals, I have chosen not to take any sedative or pre-op drugs (except anti-acid), during the surgery I opt for Zofran for nausea vs Phenegran, I've read that Zofran acts far better for cesareans and does not cause a drug haze. I had Zofran with section 2 but not section 3. After my epidural is pulled, I opt for straight demerol. I can't take morphine and other narcotics don't do the trick.
I want to add something for people to know because most do not. On most maternity floors now, when they give you demerol it is given with phenegran. It is a combo drug. The name of it escapes me. Anyway, they do this because demerol can cause nausea, but an actual nurse told me it also "helps mothers rest" because it makes moms sleepy. I had to specifically request demerol without phenegran and I had to ask everytime to be sure that is what they were bringing me.