A VBAC is a vaginal birth after having a previous caesarean delivery, possibly a concept you’ve not heard of and hardly surprising as current data shows that as many as 50% of caesareans are elective. Meaning that a large proportion of women are having planned caesareans for subsequent births.

The rate of success for women to birth vaginally after a caesarean delivery is around 70% in the UK. This is dependent on them having experienced a low-risk pregnancy along with the absence of specific underlying health concerns. Yet as you can see from the above statistic many women for various reasons are not vaginally birthing their subsequent babies.

Around 20% of all first births are delivered via emergency c-section, meaning that those women had anticipated having a vaginal delivery. That’s a high proportion of women who experienced a turbulent labour, hardly surprising that many of these women go onto have elective caesarean deliveries for subsequent births. The potential trauma felt from the first birth is likely to sway the women to a more controlled second birth which she inevitably will feel more positive about. On the flipside many of these women experienced a difficult and highly medicalised first labour which they have no desire to repeat, swaying them to seek a more natural birth experience.

Its important to understand the benefits and risks associated with a VBAC.

Benefits of a VBAC:

  • A potentially quicker and easier recovery with a shorter hospital stay.
  • Avoiding the risks of an operation.
  • A greater chance of a vaginal birth for future pregnancies.
  • A lower risk of initial breathing problems for your baby.
  • You’re more likely to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after they’re born and to be able to breastfeed them.

Risks of a VBAC: 

  • There is a small risk of uterine rupture (one in 200 women), which increases by two to three times if you have labour induced.
  • Around 25% of women attempting a VBAC will need an emergency caesarean.
  • A slightly increased risk of needing a blood transfusion.
  • The risk of serious injury to the baby, such as a brain injury or stillbirth, is higher than for a planned caesarean section. (The risk is the same as that for first-time labour.)
  • You might need ventouse or forceps assistance or you might tear during a vaginal birth, but these risks are not specific to VBAC.

Depending on the reason for your previous caesarean, if you opt for a VBAC you are still able have a homebirth or a waterbirth if you so wish. The notable differences are that both you and baby will require increased and continual monitoring. This is because if baby’s heartrate dipped it could be an early warning of scar rupture from the previous caesarean incision, though the risk of this is minimal.
Making an informed decision on whether a VBAC is right for you and your baby is a very personal choice and taking the time to discuss your options with your healthcare professionals is key to making the right choice for you.

By Ellie Dearden
Hypnobirthing Instructor at Born to Birth Company

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