I haven’t done both, but I will tell you my experience with epidural. (Spoiler alert, it was phenomenal.)
I was in labor for almost 48 hours, and I got an epidural after about 25/30. The needle going into my spine didn’t hurt anywhere near what the contractions did. Also important to note I was on Pitocin, so they were not natural contractions. In all honesty, I had no idea about the tube going into my back until you mentioned it. (I asked my husband if that was true, since he watched the whole thing, and he says yes.) I mean, of course that makes perfect sense, but I really had no idea, and couldn’t feel it in the slightest.
Not only did the epidural help with the contractions, it helped with all the pregnancy pain I had been experiencing for months at that point. I was completely pain free for the first time since I was about 5 months pregnant. I felt FANTASTIC.
I could sit up, turn over, move my legs and all that, but again, full disclosure, the nurses kept commenting that I had phenomenal control of my body, so that may not be the norm.
My baby was born completely alert. She ate within the first two hours, probably less. She DID sleep, and she did sleep a lot, but she spent a lot of time awake too, staring at everything, and completely alert.
I do have some lingering back pain, which I wonder if it is associated with the epidural, but I had it when I was pregnant (and am now pregnant again, so it’s really bothering me) so I’m more likely to think it’s from that.
Just important to show that experiences can go both ways, I 100% intend to get an epidural again. Feel free to PM me with any questions you have, what I don’t remember, my husband can answer for you. He had better seats anyway 🙂