A cesarean birth means that the baby is delivered through an incision in a mother’s abdomen and uterus. In the past, it was felt that after a cesarean, a woman could not have a vaginal birth and a repeat cesarean was always recommended for subsequent births.
In the 1980’s, doctors started realizing that women who have had a cesarean delivery can, most of the time, safely deliver their next baby vaginally.
Experience has shown that about 60 to 80% of women can have a successful VBAC if they attempt it. The benefits of a VBAC are many and include a shorter hospital stay, less blood loss, less risk for infection, and a shorter recuperation time.
However, there are some risks with a VBAC, including the risk of a uterine rupture before or during labor. A uterine rupture can sometimes lead to significant blood loss which can be harmful to both you and your baby. A uterine rupture will often require an emergency cesarean where you will need to be put to sleep. You would therefore not be awake when your baby is delivered.
Do also note that if you attempt a VBAC and then you and your doctor decide to end the attempt and instead have a repeat cesarean, there is greater risk for you and your baby of having an infection.
If you are interested in a VBAC, you should educate yourself as much as possible about the risks and benefits. Do talk it over with your health care provider in detail. If you are at a higher risk for a uterine rupture or if there are other contra-indications to your having a vaginal birth, your health care provider will recommend a repeat cesarean. You can also have a look at an online VBAC success calculator.
Talk to your health care provider to see if your hospital and OBGYN support VBAC as an option. If you are committed to attempting a VBAC, make sure you interview several providers as not every OBGYN is trained in VBAC or supports VBAC. The hospitals that do provide it will almost always require an intravenous line and continuous fetal monitoring during your labor.
For more information about VBAC, see American Pregnancy Association’s VBAC page.