(c-section) is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus. It used to be that once you had a baby by c-section, all of your future babies would have to be born by c-section, too.
Health experts now believe that a vaginal birth after a c-section (called VBAC) can be safe for many women and their babies, even though there may be some risks. Talk to your health care provider
to find out if VBAC may be a good choice for you and your baby.
About 6 to 8 out of 10 women (60 to 80 percent) who try a VBAC are successful in having a vaginal birth
. Even women who’ve had more than one c-section in the past may be able to have a VBAC safely. Some of the benefits of having a VBAC include:
- No need for surgery
- Shorter recovery time than after a c-section
- Lower risk of infection, blood loss or other c-section health complications
VBAC is a good choice for many women, but not all. You may be able to have a VBAC if:
- You had at least one vaginal birth before or after your last c-section.
- You had a past c-section for a reason that isn’t a problem in this pregnancy. For example, you had an infection in your last pregnancy, but not in this pregnancy.
- Your past c-section incision (cut) was side-to-side in the lower part of your uterus (womb). This is called a low transverse incision.
- You and your baby are in good health during pregnancy.
- Your labor starts on its own, before or on the day that your baby’s due.
Talk to your provider if you think VBAC may be right for you.
Even when both mom and baby are healthy during pregnancy, VBAC can have some risks. VBAC risks include:
- Your labor doesn’t go well and you have to have a c-section anyway.
- Your baby has a hard time handling the stress of labor.
- If you have an emergency (unplanned) c-section after labor starts, you’re at increased risk of getting an infection in your uterus.
- Although rare, the uterus may tear or even rupture during labor where your past c-section incision was made. This can be life-threatening. To make uterine tear or rupture less likely, your health care provider needs to take a careful history of what kind of incision you had in your past c-section and monitor your labor carefully.
No. Knowing whether or not you can safely have a VBAC depends not only on your and your baby’s health, but also on the kind of c-section incision you had in your past pregnancy.
A low transverse incision is the most common kind of c-section incision. It’s made side-to-side in the lower part of your uterus, where the wall of your uterus is thinnest. This incision usually bleeds less than other incisions. It also makes stronger scars, making it less likely that the scar on the uterus will rupture. If you had a low transverse incision in your c-section, you may be able to have a VBAC.
Other types of c-section incisions aren’t safe for VBAC. Talk to your provider about the kind of incision you had to see if VBAC is a safe option for you.
Some health conditions lower your chance of having a safe VBAC. A VBAC may not be a safe choice for you if:
- You had any c-section incision other than a low transverse incision.
- There are problems with the placenta, the organ that grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
- You have certain health conditions during pregnancy, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or genital herpes.
- You’re carrying multiples (twins, triplets or more).
- Your labor is induced. This is when your provider gives you medicine or breaks your water (amniotic sac) to make you start labor.
- You had two or more c-sections and never had a vaginal birth.
- You’re older than 40.
- You’re past your due date.
- You have an unusually large baby.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that providers should offer VBAC to all women with healthy pregnancies who are good candidates for VBAC and who don’t have any of the complications listed above.
But ACOG also says that providers should do VBACs only in hospitals and facilities that have certain emergency care services. These services may not be available everywhere, so some providers and hospitals may not offer VBAC.
Remember that most (about 7 in 10) VBACs are successful. If you want to have a VBAC, talk to your provider. If she can’t provide a VBAC, you may need to look for other care options near you.
See also: C-section: Medical reasons
, Inducing labor
, Stages of labor