Every medical/drug intervention carries risks. Personally, the epidural saved me and allowed for a normal vaginal birth - I was on the verge of passing out from the intensity of the pain (induced labour). No side effects, even though there was some difficulty with the procedure since they had to do it with my lying on my side. I was numb but not 'paralysed' and while pushing was indeed harder simply because you can't feel the contractions, it did allow me to fully dilate to 10cm and with the midwives telling me when to push, I was able to squeeze out a large, 4 kilo baby with only a minor first degree tear (no stitches).

You really don't know how you'll fair until you're in the thick of it - I thought morphine and gas would be enough but they had absolutely zero effect.

It's good to be informed and on the day, you make the decision that is right for you.