After a previous C-section, many women wonder which way is best to go for their next birth. There are two options: a vaginal birth (known as a vaginal birth after cesarean or VBAC) or a repeat c-section (or RCS). In most cases, a VBAC is a completely safe procedure and is better for both the mother and baby. Here are some of the benefits of having a VBAC.
Safety of VBACs
One of the biggest concerns of women who want to go for a VBAC is a fear of uterine rupture at the site of their c-section incision. For women with a low transverse scar (also known as a bikini cut), the risk of this happening is less than half of one percent, 0.4%, when labor is allowed to occur naturally.
While the risk of dying during childbirth is very rare these days, it is smaller for women having a VBAC than for those having an RCS. The risk is 0.02% for VBACs and 0.04% for an RCS.
Benefits for Baby
Opting for a VBAC has benefits for your baby. One of the benefits of a VBAC is that labor prepares your baby for his or her life outside the uterus. Labor also produces oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “bonding hormone.” It promotes love and bonding between you and your baby, and helps with successful breastfeeding.
By waiting to go into labor naturally, you avoid the risk of what is known as iatrogenic prematurity. This is when a c-section is performed too early because of a miscalculated due date.
Another benefit of a VBAC is you avoid the risk of injury to your baby during surgery, which can include accidental cuts or broken bones.
After a VBAC, your baby can be handed straight to you and you can begin breastfeeding. After a cesarean, your baby is usually cleaned and swaddled before being handed to you. After a c-section, unless you have stated beforehand that you want to breastfeed your baby on the operating table, you usually don’t get to hold your baby right away. This may serve as an impediment to the breastfeeding process.
Benefits for Mom
A vaginal birth and caesarean birth are two different experiences. During a vaginal birth, you go through a lot of intense pain for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two, and then you’re done. With a cesarean birth, the birth itself is over within an hour and (in most cases) you feel nothing. But for weeks afterwards, you aren’t yourself. For at least the first week, you’re on heavy painkillers. Then for weeks afterwards it hurts to walk, hold your baby, laugh, cough, get up from a chair or out of bed, climb stairs, etc. Just when you are expected to take care of your baby, you need someone to take care of you as you are recovering from major surgery.
Another benefit of a VBAC is you also avoid risking complications from surgery, including blood loss, blood clots, infection at the incision site, and injury to other organs during surgery.
If you have other children, having another c-section will prevent you from being able to carry them and will make it harder for you to care for them than if you have a VBAC. Also, your hospital stay after a vaginal birth will be shorter than after a c-section.
Finally, many moms who have unwanted c-sections feel a sense of loss and inadequacy because they weren’t able to birth their babies the “right” way. Being able to have a VBAC is empowering to them and helps them regain their confidence in themselves and their body.
Of course, every woman’s case is different and not everyone will be able to have a VBAC. Talk to your doctor or midwife about your specific case and make an informed decision together. However, it is important to do your own research into VBACs, and get a second opinion from a doctor supportive of VBACs if you feel you are being pressured into an unnecessary repeat c-section.
Childbirth: Vaginal Birth after Cesarean FAQ
Holistic Moms Network: Natural Labor Benefits Both Mom & Baby