Vaginal Birth After C-Section (VBAC)

What is the VBAC measure?

VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean and refers to giving birth through the vagina after a woman has already had one or more C-sections. For most women who’ve had one or two planned C-sections, planning a VBAC can be a good choice for their next birth. However, many health facilities and professionals are more comfortable planning a repeat C-section and so women may have difficulty finding support for VBAC. A hospital’s VBAC rate shows how many of the women who have had one or more C-sections in the past go on to give birth vaginally at that hospital. A higher VBAC rate generally shows that a hospital provides more support for women who want to plan VBACs.

What does VBAC mean for me and my baby?

Planning a VBAC can offer benefits over repeat C-sections, especially for families that plan to have more children. C-sections carry the typical risks of major surgery such as blood clots, infection and a longer recovery. And for women planning to have more children, professionals also worry about potentially serious bleeding and other problems when a new placenta grows in a uterus with previous C-section scarring. These problems are more likely as the number of scars increases.

Concerns about VBAC relate to the possibility, which many medical experts consider unlikely, that a previous C-section scar could give way during labor. For this reason, professionals recommend that VBACs take place in hospitals with 24/7 readiness for unplanned C-sections. Such hospitals are prepared to transition quickly from one kind of birth to another if needed. 

Why do hospital VBAC measures matter?

Support for VBACs tends to vary based on the culture and practices of a hospital. Hospitals that aren’t as familiar or as comfortable with VBACs tend to have lower VBAC rates and higher C-section rates. Hospitals with higher VBAC rates tend to have policies and practices that support VBACs and thorough understanding of when and how VBAC is a good option.

What can I do with this information?

If you’ve had one or two C-sections in the past and are interested in planning a vaginal birth, be clear about this with your doctor or midwife. Some maternity care providers are more VBAC-friendly and will help you decide whether a VBAC is a good option for you. Many midwives are especially committed to supporting VBAC. If VBAC is a priority for you but the hospital at which you plan to give birth has a low VBAC rate, share your concerns with your doctor.