I find it interesting that not once in this conversation has the complications issue came up... epidurals force women to stay on their back in a position that is helpful for medical procedures, but not at all helpful in the world of pushing a child out- the pelvic bones are aided by gravity and baby's position if a mom is up a bit (squatting, crouching, on hands and knees, etc). Also, epidurals have been shown to slow down labor, which can cause doctors to use the beautiful "failure to progress" (in their timeline anyway) reasoning for a c-section.
I'm not saying in any way that epidurals are terrible or that they don't have a place in L&D, I understand that each individual woman needs her own methods- but I am saying that there are more issues here than just "what mom wants"- I suspect that if mom were fully educated on the possible risks and issues, she might choose differently. Also, if mom wasn't stuck in a bed on external monitors the entire labor, she would progress faster and with better means to work through the contractions.
I'm speaking here from education as well as personal experience. I've had five children. The first was with epidural for all of 5 minutes before it came out and began to medicate the bed (I told the nurse "I feel a puddle on my back", she says "oh, its just amniotic fluid" when my water had not yet broke! she finally came over to check to get me quiet and stood there stunned at the fact that a silly pregnant teenager knew something was wrong). The next was without epidural but in the same hospital- again strapped to a bed with monitors and discouraged from moving around at all. The next three were without epidurals (I'd already learned that I could do it without) and in a different hospital where they encouraged mom to be up and moving, to follow her body and instincts. Very very different labors/deliveries!
When looking at these types of issues we need to not only think of what a woman wants in her own birth experience, but also at what value the intervention provides versus the risks and complications it can cause. Women have every right to make their own choices for their own bodies, but should be well informed before making that choice.