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Vaginal Birth After C Section (VBAC)

VBAC stands for vaginal birth after C-section. Some women who have had one or more C-section in the past are at risk for complications if they attempt to deliver another child vaginally. However, in recent years, due in part to advances in surgical techniques, some women can have a vaginal birth after a previous C-section. 

In the past, doctors would not support or recommend vaginal birth after a prior C-section. However, VBAC is now possible for many women. There are estimates that up to 75 percent of women who attempt VBAC will have a successful vaginal delivery.

Why consider VBAC?

If your health care provider believes that VBAC could be right for you, you may choose to consider it. There are some potential benefits to choosing VBAC over C-section, including:

  • You should have fewer complications. Generally, vaginal births carry fewer risks than repeat C-sections. The risk of infection and severe blood loss are reduced. However, if your VBAC fails and you must have an emergency C-section, your risk of infection will be higher than if you had a planned repeat C-section.
  • You should recover faster and have less postpartum pain. Your hospital stay will likely be shorter, and your recovery time at home will likely be reduced if you have a successful VBAC rather than a repeat C-section.
  • You may have an easier time with VBAC deliveries in the future. If you plan to have more children, VBAC may make future deliveries easier and less complicated. Evidence shows that VBAC tends to get easier in subsequent pregnancies, while repeat C-sections tend to get more complex and difficult.
  • You may be able to be more involved in the birth. Women who have vaginal deliveries usually get to hold and breastfeed their babies sooner than if they have C-sections. This is especially true when compared with repeat C-sections.

Am I a candidate for VBAC?

Although VBAC is becoming more common, not all women can have a successful vaginal birth after C-section. Your chances of having a successful VBAC are higher if:

  • you’ve only had one prior uterine incision, and it was a low transverse uterine incision (your doctor should be able to tell you what type of incision you had previously)
  • your previous C-section was due to multiples or the baby being breech, not because the baby “didn’t fit”
  • you and your baby are healthy, and your pregnancy is normal
  • you’ve had a prior successful vaginal delivery
  • your labor begins naturally before your due date

VBAC may not be an option for you if:

  • you have had more than one C-sections and have never had a vaginal delivery
  • your pregnancy continues beyond your due date
  • your baby is unusually large
  • you’ve had a vertical uterine incision in the past
  • you are carrying multiples (VBAC may be possible with some twin pregnancies, but not with most multiples)

VBAC is definitely not an option for you if:

  • you have a health condition that could affect vaginal delivery or harm your baby if he or she is born vaginally
  • you had a uterine rupture during a previous pregnancy

Risks of VBAC

There are some potential risks of VBAC that can be very serious. Those risks include:

  • uterine infection
  • uterine rupture
  • failed attempt at labor that requires repeat C-section

If you’ve had a prior C-section and you would like to consider VBAC, talk with your health care provider to find out whether it’s an option for you.