So, I learned something new today. I like to think I've studied and figured out all the risks of epidurals and such, but here's a new one. I mentioned to my sister loriloo some incontinence issues it seems like all my pregnant friends have, and she mentioned that having had an epidural increases the odds of such problems substantially. So I loooked it up (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8233276) and found this study:
OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that epidural anesthesia during labor prevents the development of stress incontinence after vaginal birth. METHODS: We interviewed 208 primiparas about stress incontinence 3 months postpartum. The women who developed stress incontinence after delivery were interviewed again 1 year postpartum. RESULTS: Twelve of 45 women (27%) who had epidural anesthesia developed stress incontinence de novo after vaginal delivery, versus 21 of 163 (13%) who did not receive epidural anesthesia, a marginally significant difference (P = .05). Those who had epidural anesthesia also had a significantly longer first stage of labor. One year after delivery, three of 42 (7%) in the epidural anesthesia group had stress incontinence, compared with five of 163 (3%) in the control group. CONCLUSION: Our results do not support the hypothesis that epidural anesthesia protects against the development of stress incontinence after vaginal delivery.
In theory, it has to do not with the epidural itself but with the catheter being in there during pushing. I hadn't even thought of that. Makes sense though. Obviously there are still some good reasons to get an epidural for a lot of women- just one set of risks I didn't even know about.