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VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Caesarean)

Having a VBAC involves giving birth vaginally after a previous C-section birth.

What is a VBAC?

VBAC or vaginal birth after Caesarean, involves giving birth to your baby vaginally when you've previously had a baby via C-section. Having a VBAC requires your labour to be more closely monitored as it is considered higher risk than a vaginal birth with no previous C-section. Most women will have a successful VBAC but the risk of the previous scar tearing and causing a uterine rupture affects one in 200 women.

At a glance

  • VBAC carries more risk than vaginal birth with no previous C-section
  • Most women will have a successful VBAC
  • Risk of uterine rupture is around one in 200 women

Woman having a vbac birth

Why might I choose to have a VBAC?

You may opt for a VBAC as you’ll have a quicker recovery time than that of a C-section birth. This will be particularly important to you if you have a toddler or young child to look after as well as you’re newborn. You’ll not want to be slowed down by the recovery time needed for a C-section, which can often be around 6 weeks or longer.

For some women who didn’t have the choice of a vaginal birth with a previous pregnancy there can be disappointment at having had a C-section birth. VBAC offers an opportunity to experience what you missed out on previously and can give mums a sense of achievement and fulfillment.

Why might I avoid having a VBAC?

Having a VBAC carries with it the same risks or disadvantages of a normal birth including tearing of the perineum, bruising after birth and the leaking of urine from the vagina whilst recovering post-birth.

However, with VBAC there is also a risk of a more serious complication of a uterine rupture. A uterine rupture occurs when the scar from a previous C-section tears open. This only occurs in one out of every 200 women but it’s worth considering when thinking about VBAC as it’s potentially life threatening to your baby if it occurs during labour. However, the risk of serious complication is very rare and only occurs for a couple out of every 10,000 cases.

Can I have pain relief with a VBAC?

You can have the same pain relief with a VBAC as you normally would in labour, however some mums opt not to as it can make it a lot harder to tell if you do suffer a uterine rupture. A common sign of this is continued pain even between contractions and pain relief such as an epidural can mask this pain making it harder to tell if a rupture is happening.

If you’re unsure if you want to have medicinal pain relief, there are a number of natural pain relief methods you could try instead including a birthing pool and focusing on your breathing.

What is the success rate with a VBAC?

A successful VBAC will depend on a number of factors including why you needed a C-section previously, whether you’ve ever had a baby vaginally and how the pregnancy is going generally.

If your reason for needing a C-section previously was a unique situation e.g. a breech baby, it’s possible that you’ll be able to have a successful VBAC this time around. The chances of a successful VBAC change depending on your previous births as follows:

·         If you’ve had a baby vaginally before, there’s a 87% to 90% chance it’ll be successful

·         If you’ve had one C-section before, there’s a 72% to 75% chance it’ll be successful

·         If you’ve had two C-sections before, there’s a 70% to 75% chance it’ll be successful

What is the alternative to having a VBAC?

If you decide to not have VBAC you will be able to have an ERCS or Elective repeat Caesarean section. You will be able to discuss both options with your doctor or midwife and they can help you decide which option is best for you based on previous pregnancies and the outcome of those labours.

At a glance

  • VBAC carries more risk than vaginal birth with no previous C-section
  • Most women will have a successful VBAC
  • Risk of uterine rupture is around one in 200 women

VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Caesarean)