Post by contributor, Erin Long
In preparing for the birth of my first child, I basically skipped over everything to do with C-sections. I was young, healthy and my baby looked absolutely fantastic. I trusted my doctor and was delivering in Hungary, a country with a low C-section rate.
Why would I, of all people, have a C-section? I was ready to bring my baby into the world by my own strength and I had no reason to expect anything else.
But when labor wasn’t going as planned and my daughter’s heart rate started dropping, my doctor called for a C-section. I was completely taken off-guard and not prepared.
I knew I really wanted to deliver my daughter vaginally before she was born but not getting to do so revealed to me just how strong this desire was for the next time. There was nothing I wanted more than to bring my next baby into the world naturally through a successful VBAC.
A year later I found out I was pregnant again. I immediately began researching VBACs and spent countless hours pouring over books about natural birth and VBAC success.
I was determined to do everything in my power to have the birth I hoped for.
I was beyond blessed to deliver my son naturally with a midwife and while there were aspects of his birth that didn’t go how I would have liked, it was an amazingly powerful experience and I came away from it empowered and my daughter’s birth felt redeemed.
While there is the rare case where attempting a VBAC is not advised, almost every expecting mother should consider attempting a VBAC and almost all of them will be successful.
This success should not be left to chance.
A mother needs to make sure she has put the proper pieces in place that will support her during pregnancy and, most importantly, during labor and delivery.
While there is no way to guarantee a successful VBAC (there are no guarantees in birth!) here are 7 ways to increase your chances of a successful VBAC.
1. Choose a supportive provider
This is the crux of VBAC success: your provider has to not only support VBACs but truly believe in them.
Put yourself in the care of a person who not only understands that a vaginal delivery is best for you and your baby but also wants you to deliver vaginally. A provider might say they support VBACs but when push comes to shove and the slightest bit of a red flag flares up, they might get jumpy.
Choose someone with a history of successful VBACs and who is prepared to do everything in their power to make your VBAC a success.
These 48 Questions To Ask Before Choosing a Birth Care Provider are a great place to start and be sure to ask specifically about their VBAC philosophy and be willing to change providers if you don’t have confidence in them.
2. Consider a doula
If you’re delivering with a midwife, a doula might not be necessary. However, if you are under the care of an OB in a hospital, a doula is a vital component for success. A doula is trained to help you labor naturally, make informed decisions, and advocate for you if necessary. Women who birth with a doula are 28% less likely to have a C-section and have more satisfying birth experiences. The knowledge and support a doula offers could be the difference between a successful VBAC and a repeat C-section.
3. Research, research, research
Normally I don’t advocate extensive pregnancy research (there’s way too much fear-mongering on most major pregnancy websites) but this is one exception. If you understand the root cause behind your C-section, you can do your best to eliminate it as a factor in your next birth.
Also, know the facts about VBACs: 60 – 80% of women who attempt VBACs are successful, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology actually supports attempting a VBAC.
You probably did plenty of research about natural birth with your previous pregnancy but it’s definitely worth brushing up on pain management techniques, be encouraged by other birth stories and be reminded of the beauty of birth.
The more you know about VBACs and natural birth, the better equipped you will be to be your own advocate and to go into labor knowing that not only will you most likely be able to do this, you can do this!!
4. Be healthy
This goes for any pregnancy: the more healthy you are the greater your chances are of having a natural, healthy labor and delivery. Eat nutrient-dense real foods, exercise and stay active. You want to do everything you can to prepare yourself and your baby for a healthy, vaginal delivery.
5. Make your desires known
Whether this is a written birth plan, a thorough conversation with your provider or a birth partner who expressly knows your desires or all of the above, be confident that you have communicated your wishes and that they are understood.
How you do this could depend on who your provider is (I would recommend a written birth plan with an OB, while talking with a midwife could be enough) and your personality, but be satisfied that the key support players in the birth are on the same page as you.
6. If you’re delivering in a hospital, wait as long as possible to go
The less time you spend in a hospital, the less time there is for unnecessary interventions. Labor at home as long as you feel comfortable and go to the hospital only when you feel it’s necessary.
7. Give yourself grace
Because you’re attempting a VBAC, you’ve most likely already had a disappointing birth experience. Hopefully this birth will be one of redemption and you can feel the joys of birthing your baby vaginally.
But if it isn’t a perfect experience, and very few births are, that’s okay. If you have another C-section, that’s okay. Whatever happens you have brought a baby into the world and that, dear mama, is amazing.
Have you attempted a VBAC? What advice would you add?
(All photos except top image are from Beth Ricci)