However Dr Walsh agreed that in some cases epidurals were needed to preserve the mother's health, adding that the rates of epidurals were increasing over the years.
He also said that the concern was epidurals boosted the need for hormones to trigger contractions, which was not such a good thing. "I am concerned that if we increase epidural rates we do not know the long-term impacts of that," he added.
However Dr Maggie Blott, consultant obstetrician at University College London, said that labour pain should not be underestimated. "If it is happening hour after hour in a very prolonged labour it is very tiring and wears people down and I think epidurals are very useful in that situation," she added.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, also agreed, ""At the moment it is very easy for most women to ask for an epidural, and if they want one they definitely should get one. But what Denis is saying is that we want to make sure that women get other options, and that they do get really good support from midwives." ," she said.
Dr Walsh has written his views in the latest issue of the journal Evidence Based Midwifery.