Vaginal Birth after a Previous C-Section

What is a vaginal birth after a previous C-Section?

If you had your last baby by C-section (cesarean section), you may be able to deliver your next child vaginally. This is called a vaginal birth after a cesarean, or VBAC. Possible benefits of having a VBAC instead of a C-section are:

  • Generally, a vaginal delivery has fewer risks for you than a C-section and is considered safe for the baby.
  • Your hospital stay is shorter, and your recovery at home is faster. You will have less discomfort after the birth.
  • You and your family can be more involved with the birth.

When is it used?

You may be able to have VBAC if:

  • The cut in your uterus for your C-section was made side to side rather than up and down. You may not be able to know the direction of the cut in your uterus by looking at the scar on your belly. The cut on your skin is not always in the same direction as the cut in your uterus. Your healthcare provider will look at your medical records to see which type of cut you had.
  • You have no other uterine scars or previous tears of the uterus.
  • Your pelvis is large enough for a vaginal birth.
  • You don’t have a problem in your pregnancy that suggests that labor would not be safe for you or the baby.
  • Your baby is not in a breech position (the baby’s bottom or feet are down first instead of the head).
  • You don’t need prostaglandins to soften the cervix before labor gets started. (Prostaglandins increase the risk of a tear in the scar on your uterus during delivery.)
  • A delivery room and staff are ready to do an emergency C-section if needed.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Follow any instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before you give birth.

What happens during the procedure?

When your labor starts or when your bag of water breaks, you will be asked to go to the hospital. Your healthcare provider will carefully watch the progress of your labor. As long as everything is going normally, you should be able to have a vaginal birth. However, you may need to have another C-section if there are signs of:

  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Failure to make good progress in labor
  • A tear along the scar line on your uterus from the previous C-section

What happens after the procedure?

After a vaginal birth, you will usually stay in the hospital for 2 days. After a C-section, you may stay 3 to 4 days, based on your condition.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Some possible risks of a VBAC include:

  • Your uterus may tear along the scar line from the previous C-section. If the uterus is damaged, it can often be repaired. In some cases the uterus may need to be removed to control bleeding and avoid more problems.
  • If an emergency C-section needs to be done, it has more risk of infection and other problems than a scheduled C-section.

Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-02
Last reviewed: 2014-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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