With my first, I labored for awhile, and then when my contrax switched from 1 every 7 min to one every 90 sec, I had stadol and then an epi. I hated stadol - it really drugged me out. The epi was glorious. Good thing I had it, as I wound up needing an emergency c due to my becoming preeclamptic and DS's heart and pulse ox dropping. As it turns out, DS had a short cord.
With my second DS, I was scheduled for a c-section the next day because of my worsening repeat pre-e, when I unexpectably went into labor. I had wanted a VBAC but did not want an induced VBAC, hence my reluctant agreement for the repeat c. This time I knew I would labor fast (my first I went from 3cm to 10 in 3 hrs), so I knew there was little risk of an epi *stalling* my labor. I tried stadol again, which was ok this time, but the back labor was brutal, so I went ahead with the epi. I had to stay on my side because of my pre-e, so my epi affected one side more than the other - otherwise, no side effects and I got to sleep for about 2 hrs while Jack descended. My MWs called it passive descent - I was fully dialated but we waited and rested while he came down until I felt the urge to push. After just 40 min of pushing, he came into the world with a great big woosh
: Jack also had a short cord! But i think because I didn't push, he came down with less stress. Then again my condition the second time around was more stable too, with my BP fairly reasonable and steady. Who knows.
My advice? You never know what will happen. Be open to different possibilities. Try other pain relief first if you need something. But have your labs done early so if you find you want/need an epi, you can have one quickly. It sucks to be in transition, contractions every minute, and be trying to get an epidural done. But it sucks even more to have back labor and be confined to bed without pain relief!!!