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Are you longing to have a vaginal birth after cesarean, but worried about how to prepare and if you’re considered a good candidate? Don’t worry mama, you’re in the right place! A VBAC is such a different experience for moms, but with the right care team and birth partner, you’ll be well on the path to a successful VBAC journey.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, “90% of women who have undergone cesarean deliveries are candidates for VBAC”.
Notice it says “candidate”. So, what makes a mom a candidate for a VBAC?
- Must have no more than 2 low transverse cesarean deliveries.
- Must have no additional uterine scars, or previous ruptures.
- Your location of birth needs to have staff and personnel available on weekends, nights, and after hours in case a cesarean is needed.
- You should have a doctor prepared to monitor labor who is able to perform a cesarean or transfer for immediate care if needed.
- Have no major medical problems or conditions.
- The baby is measuring at a normal size for delivery (though an ultrasound really is not that accurate in guesstimating baby’s weight so some may not even consider these criteria).
- The baby is head-down & appropriately positioned.
However, you shouldn’t read this list and go, great I’m going to have a VBAC and that’s that.
Instead, take some notes, and discuss this with your health care provider right away!
It’s important you find a doctor willing to advocate and support your decision to have a VBAC while also being upfront and honest about the risks. Lay everything out in your birth plan (and I mean everything). If you already have a doctor and are ready for me Top 5 Preparing for VBAC tips — keep on readin’ mama!
5 Preparing For VBAC Tips
Preparing for a VBAC is a big deal for most moms, not because they aren’t happy with their baby’s cesarean birth, but because they want to try for a vaginal delivery. This first tip is a total bonus tip, but you will need to take a birth class one way or the other before your due date.
Unfortunately, most birth classes are NOT aimed to prepare you for a vaginal delivery after cesarean except for this one!
This birth class was created by a high-risk labor & delivery nurse who advocates and supports moms wanting to have a vaginal birth after cesarean.
Once you take your birth class (like the one I mentioned above) and are fully ready to embark on your VBAC preparation journey, these are the 5 tips I suggest to ensure you have the most successful VBAC possible!
1) Practice how to strengthen uterus for VBAC (and prevent a uterine rupture)
One of the most common concerns amongst moms preparing to have a vaginal birth after a cesarean is the risk of uterine rupture.
A uterine rupture is when the cesarean scar on your uterus tears or rips open. It is a serious and life-threatening condition (including blood loss & needing continuous monitoring) that shouldn’t be ignored by any means, but it also isn’t very common.
Here’s a fun fact for you: uterine rupture is RARE (according to Mayo Clinic)!
So rare, that less than 1% of women (that meet the criteria) who attempt a VBAC after cesarean will experience a uterine rupture.
Though, because it CAN technically still happen, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
This is why it’s important to have a team of experienced personnel ready to act accordingly in the event of an emergency (though more rare than common).
2) Learn how to increase chances of VBAC
Despite meeting the general criteria at the beginning of this post, there are a few extra things you can do to increase your chance of having a successful VBAC with your second child:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to manage weight & not gain any more than what’s recommended by your doctor.
- Stay active and physically in good shape (The Juna app is phenomenal for providing prenatal fitness and nutritional support, check out Juna here).
- Understand why you had a cesarean in the first place to help weigh the pros and cons of a VBAC.
- Wait at least 18 months before you have to give birth again.
By implementing these tips, you should be on your way to having the best labor experience possible!
3) Having a successful VBAC requires positive thinking
When preparing to have a VBAC, one of the best things you can do is to stay calm, cool, and collected.
Keeping your stress under control and your mind healthy can give you all the strength and willpower needed to not give up on this journey to having a VBAC.
I suggest reading daily affirmations or using pregnancy affirmation cards like these.
4) Hire a VBAC midwife and/or doula
I mentioned earlier that having a VBAC-supportive provider or care team is important.
It’s also important that those on your support team be familiar or willing to learn about the ins and outs of having a VBAC.
Midwives are wonderful as they’ll be right by your side the entire time, equipped with their medical training and professional experience to help you deliver the baby the way you’ve always dreamed.
Meanwhile, your doula will be on your side offering you the support and encouragement you need to get through this new and exciting journey!
Lastly, be sure to visit ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) for even more support and education surrounding vaginal birth after cesareans.
5) Discuss the risks with your healthcare team
Discussing and understanding the risks of both a VBAC and repeat cesarean is important.
Did you know that a “successful VBAC is associated with fewer complications than an elective repeat C-section, a failed trial of labor after a C-section is associated with more complications, including a uterine rupture.” (Source: Mayo Clinic)
To simplify that, moms who have a successful VBAC tend to have fewer complications vs. moms who try to have a VBAC and fail their labor trial.
And although a uterine rupture is a very serious and life-threatening event, as mentioned earlier in this post it is a lot rarer to occur.
All in all, these are important points of discussion to have with your doctor. Make yourself a list of questions to take with you to your next appointment. If you need some help, I jotted down some ideas below:
- What are the risks associated with having a VBAC?
- What are the risks associated with having a C-Section again?
- Based on my medical history, what chances do I have of having a successful VBAC?
- How many VBACs have you attended and how many were successful?
- What is the emergency protocol in the event I needed a C-Section? Who could come with me? Will it be at your hospital or will I be transferred?
Now that you have some solid questions to discuss with your doctor, you’re one step closer to having that VBAC you’ve been dreaming of!
Having a vaginal delivery after c-section IS POSSIBLE
Having a vaginal delivery after a c-section is completely possible.
I mean, the statistics show that the VBAC success rate is pretty darn good!
However, I want you to know that even if you don’t have a successful VBAC, you’re still an INCREDIBLE mother! Either way, you have brought life into this world and it should be celebrated!
Real life VBAC success stories (from moms like you!)
I know how much positive affirmations and birth stories can play a role in calming your mind while preparing for a VBAC.
I recently asked around in a few local motherhood groups I’m part of if any of the moms would like to share their stories, here’s what they had to say:
“I’ve had 1 VBAC that I worked closely with my OBGYN and midwife team to make happen. I had an emergency c-section with my first daughter due to my weight and eclampsia. I was worried I would have another c-section, but my doctor encouraged me to find a midwife that specializes in VBACS and she helped me lose the weight with a nutritionist so that I could have fewer issues during birth. I’m so blessed it worked and I was able to bring my 2nd baby girl into the world without a major surgery. Recovery was 10x better” – Amanda C.
“I had a VBAC at the end of last year (2020) and it was so amazing to experience labor until the very end! It was a lot harder than I expected lol, but I am so thankful I have such a supportive husband and family there cheering me on the entire time. I also had a midwife and doula team that accompanied me during birth and my god they are my saving grace!” – Lauren J.
“2 VBACs down, 1 to go! Currently planning my 3rd VBAC, but I wanted to share if that’s ok because I’ve had 2 before. My number one suggestion is to make sure you have a medical team willing to let you try! And not just try a little and send you off to the OR, but really exhaust all efforts (safely) so that you can have a VBAC because it really is possible. Oh and learn all that you can about birth! I think finally diving into birth lessons and classes just helped me overcome a lot of the fears I had after my 1st birth and I literally went into it feeling so confident like ‘I CAN DO THIS’ and didn’t even bat an eye.” – Anna L.
How do I prepare my body for a VBAC?
Preparing your body for a VBAC isn’t all too difficult. Try to think about it as another chance to be more in control of your birth journey vs a stressful chore.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to heal and recover fully from your c-section as well.
Then, ensure you are eating a healthy, well-rounded, nutrient-filled meal daily.
You will also want to fully understand your body and the reasons you had a c-section from the get-go. Being in tune with your body is so important to guide you throughout this process.
Is VBAC considered a high-risk pregnancy?
According to the ACOG, it doesn’t appear to be labeled as a “high-risk pregnancy”, however, this is something you should ask your doctor or midwife so that you have the best expectations possible.
As mentioned earlier in this article, you should be well educated on the medical reasons to push forward with a VBAC as well as the risk factors to possibly hold back from a VBAC.
How soon after C-section can you VBAC?
The ACOG recommends at least 18 months between pregnancies.
When you think about having major surgery and then using those same muscles to try and push a baby out before they’re healed, it just sounds painful!
I know the idea of waiting can be tough, but try to wait the 18 months in between if you’re set on a VBAC. It will not only help increase your chances but can also feel better for you as well!
VBAC Resources for Moms:
Besides your doctor and support team, you’ll likely want to start digging into some resources to help you learn all that you can about VBACs.
- International Cesarean Awareness Network
- VBAC Facts
- The VBAC Link
- Spinning Babies
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
There you have it. The best tips to help you prepare for a VBAC.
And as a final reminder — no matter how you bring your baby into this world, YOU ARE AN INCREDIBLE MOTHER. Please don’t forget that.