So you had a c-section with a previous pregnancy and you are interested in VBACing. You are not alone (although sometimes it may feel like it). There are still many misconceptions surrounding VBACs. And even though they are proven to be very safe and even safer (in most cases) than a repeat c-section, many doctors still suggest that “you cannot have a vaginal birth after a c-section”.
So, wait…back up. What is VBAC?
VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section. For many years OBGYNs told their patients that it was not safe to have a vaginal birth after a c-section. “Why?” you ask. Because of uterine ruptures. Uterine ruptures sound very serious and terrifying – and they are. However, if you are a good candidate for a VBAC, your risk of a uterine rupture during a VBAC is actually quite low – less than 1%.
No pregnancy to-do list would be complete without mentioning exercise. Exercise is important in every pregnancy. It helps you build, and keep, your strength which will be needed during delivery. It also helps to keep your weight down. A healthy woman should aim to gain between 20-30 lbs when they are pregnant. Appropriate weight gain and building strength are the most important steps that you can take to ensure a successful VBAC.
I don’t know what is harder when you are pregnant – a healthy diet or staying active. I am guilty of too many chocolate chip cookies during my pregnancy. However, diet is crucial to keeping your weight down. I’m certainly not suggesting that you starve yourself, or even deprive yourself of cookies, during your pregnancy. Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Keep yourself well hydrated. Limit your sugar. Easier said than done, right?!?!
3. Find a supportive coach
Your coach can be your partner, mom, sister, doula, best friend, etc. Your coach needs to be someone who can support you during labor AND the entirety of your pregnancy. Your coach needs to be informed about VBACs – the advantages, the risks, and the steps that you need to take to be successful.
My husband was an awesome coach! At the beginning of my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time educating him about the importance of vaginal birth. Since this was our first pregnancy together (we have a blended family), I shared my birth story from my first pregnancy. We discussed what went wrong and what I could do differently. He gently reminded me of my goals when my cravings were out of control. He kept me calm and focused during a horrible labor. He was the constant, steady voice that I needed to guide me through my weak moments.
4. Allow labor to begin naturally
I know this is hard. Trust me, I know this is hard. Once you hit 38 weeks pregnant you start to fantasize what it would be like to not be pregnant anymore. During this physically and emotionally demanding time, remember why you want to VBAC. This is where your coach comes in. Continue to do research together. Your research will help motivate you to keep going.
Bonus Tip – Make it clear to your doctor that you do not want to be asked if you want an induction. There is nothing harder than hearing, “So, when do you want to have this baby?” Because, let’s face it, the answer to that question is “yesterday”.
5. Let your water break on it’s own
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with tip #4. Most doctors, even supportive VBAC doctors, will only allow you so much time to labor after your water has broken. You don’t need to be on the clock any sooner than you have to be. If the baby isn’t ready, you are more likely to have a repeat c-section.
6. No pit: If at all possible, avoid pitocin. If the baby isn’t ready…well, I think you get it. Trust your body!
During my labor with AD (my VBAC baby), I had 53 hours of prodromal labor. 56 hours, people!!! Prodromal labor is a labor that occurs before the onset of active labor. I will admit, I caved. My doctor was ready to send me home to continue my prodromal labor. I, on the other hand, could not bare the thought of any more labor. I asked for a c-section. It was as I was leaning forward to sign my c-section papers that my water broke.
7. Don’t be afraid of the epidural
I’m all for natural childbirth; however, if it comes down to a epidural-free childbirth or a c-section, don’t be afraid to choose the epidural. During my first birth, I labored for 23 hours without an epidural. I was determined to not use the epidural. By the time I caved and got the epidural, I was already on the road to a c-section. I hadn’t progressed, I was exhausted, and the baby was exhausted. I truly believe that if I would have gotten an epidural sooner, I would have been more relaxed and thus able to progress.
8. Believe you can do it
You got this! You can do this! People do it every day.
If you think you are interested in VBACing during your next delivery and would like to learn more information about what makes a good VBAC candidate, I recommend reading about it here. Be sure to discuss VBACs with your doctor. Ask your doctor if (s)he thinks that you would be a good candidate for a VBAC and, if so, would (s)he support your decision to VBAC. If your doctor “doesn’t do VBACs”, maybe it’s time to shop around.
Hi! Our names are Bri & Mike and we are the creators of Practically Parents. We have three awesome (and challenging) kids and love to share our parenting successes and failures with you.