I had my first baby, a boy, on 14 March 2003, at Polyclinique Saint Jean in Cagnes Sur Mer [South of France, very near Nice]. I do not speak French, and had been in France exactly one month [I joined my husband here so he could be present at the birth], prior to giving birth. Prior to arriving, I had a completely uneventful pregnancy, and regular prenatal care right from the very beginning in Northern California. Although I was advised that my options were much more limited because I was in the South of France rather than Paris, I can confirm that one of the attitudes I was met with here was "of course you'll want an epidural." Actually, I didn't want anything and if I had been a bit younger (I turned 40 three weeks before delivering) and would have had the time to made appropriate arrangements, I would have done a home birth. Given the situation, my plan was to stay at home with my two dogs as long as possible so they couldn't pump me full of drugs. I did, however, have an open mind about the complete unpredictability of pregnancy, and it was a very good thing. Things turned south very quickly about a week before I was due, and induction was strongly urged. [Since I was also told you can't get a second opinion although you can change doctors here, I got a second opinion from a family practice doctor in Seattle I know very well and trust.] After a very full day of a failed induction attempt (being pumped full of hormones for nearly 8 hours and then given a smooth muscle relaxer after about 60--the latter I felt was without my consent), and an extremely difficult next day due to communication glitches and all sorts of ugliness I won't get into [I'll just say that having a baby in Northern California is extremely different than doing so here. In CA, it is very much patient-controlled v. doctor who knows all, can't do any wrong, tells midwife [not even the patient] what's going to happen and when], I finally went into labor shortly before 5 p.m. the next day. [This occured shortly after self-administered accupressure although I certainly admit that it could have been that all of the drugs finally kicked in]. Despite all the drugs in me that I didn't want, and my water breaking immediately, I was able to manage the pain until I had to lay down for a fetal monitor check. After 10 minutes on my back, it became very clear to me that given my sleep-deprived state, there was no way I could effectively manage the pain without an epidural given that the only way they allow you to deliver in most clinics in the south of France is on your back with your feet in stirrups, with an IV and a fetal monitor, from about 6 cm on. Since I was at 6 cm, I decided that the epidural was the smart thing to do given all the factors. My husband tells me that the pain relief was instant, although I don't remember it quite that way. What I vividly remember, however, was how magnificantly skilled and kind my anesthesiologist was, and how superb the midwives were throughout the entire process. [I think I've said enough about my OB. . .] The most negative thing I can say about the epidural is that I do think that it interferes with pushing because although I definitely felt pressure, I didn't feel the damage I did to myself until the next day. [I definitely felt it the next day, but just said no to the very liberally offered drugs although I was assured that same would not interfere with breastfeeding.] I think that part of delivery likely would have been quite a bit different without the epidural. For what it's worth, based on the extensive research I did prior to arriving here, I felt that the epidural would be the best pain relief alternative if medication were absolutely necessary. I would very strongly encourage your daughter to keep an open mind about pain relief, as one never knows what will happen, and to explore all options available to her, and to do what SHE thinks best. I would also say that at least to me, having Greg [my son's father] with me at least most of the time--they always took me in first, and he had to wait and then get into scrubs-- [it's true that the French seem to think men really shouldn't be involved in childbirth] made everything I went through seem trivial. I would also concur with Kate who said that the epidural was absolutely worth the cost. Finally, as to cost, because of when I arrived, we had to front all costs and then get reimbursed. Talk about a nightmare! We are still not fully reimbursed, BUT carte vitale paid 100% of the cost of my anesthesiologist BUT not 100% of the cost of the drugs. If I knew exactly what it cost, I'd tell you, but I honestly still don't. [Fortunately, I have supplemental insurance through my husband and it has picked up nearly all that carte vitale didn't.] The way it seems to work is that there is a base fee that carte vitale will pay, but if you use more than this base and don't have supplemental insurance, you pay. At least, that's the way it's been so far with reimbursement. If I were a betting person, I would bet that the Doctor is quoting your daughter the price that an epidural usually costs--or could cost--over and above what carte vitale pays. One final point--as I've gone on far too long--in my opinion, the care one receives in France after giving birth is sooooooooo far superior to that in the United States, it isn't even funny. Although I do feel they push the drugs way too much for my taste in France, my experience was that the clinic staff really took the time to teach me everything I needed to know without making me feel ignorant, and made sure I got the rest I needed. I even had midwives calling pharmacies, scolding them, when the pharmacy gave my non-French speaking husband something other than what she wrote down on the list. Then again, I was a novelty--an American, not only new to France, but one who didn't want drugs and didn't speak French, and who named her son a name she had to be taught to properly pronounce [Laurent Andre]. Best of luck to your daughter--I'm confident she'll do just fine if she ignores most of the advice and does what she thinks is best!