This is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. I don't hide the fact that I am not an epidural fan, but I do think this is a valid question.
There's not enough research to determine how much of the epidural is processed by the placenta, and how much of it reaches the baby. We do know that babies are certainly affected by the epidural, such as affecting the newborn's sucking reflex for breastfeeding and making a baby more sleepy, so it would naturally make sense that some of the medication reaches the baby, but by what route?
The epidural medication is put into the epidural space near the spine. It is not injected into the bloodstream, that would be a huge no-no! So, does some of it get picked up by the bloodstream? It's not supposed to, but there are many who feel it does. I personally am undecided. If the medication does not get into a mother's bloodstream, how does it get to the baby and affect the baby? This is where I feel more research is needed because we simply don't have an answer.
Even though science is not quite there, we do not treat an epidural as a contraindication to having your placenta encapsulated. The truth is that most of my clients do get an epidural during labor. An epidural does not seem to decrease the benefits of the encapsulation, and I have never heard of even one complication from taking placenta capsules.
If there is a small chance that some of the epidural medication is lingering in the placenta when the encapsulation takes place, the benefits of the encapsulation process remain, and therefore should not stop a woman from choosing her method of pain relief and still encapsulating her placenta as desired.
I will make one small note though that while every woman has a right to choose how she wants her birth to go, it truly is so much more amazing, better for the mom and baby, if a woman chooses to forgo the epidural and have a completely natural labor. It can be done and it is incredible! I have never heard anyone who had a planned, relaxed natural birth regret it, but I have heard plenty of epidural horror stories and even have one of my own. Do your research first!