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Paula Kashtan and Kylie McConville

What's A VBAC?

With my first child, I had to have a cesarean. Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m hearing the term VBAC from my doctors. What exactly does that mean?

VBAC is just a quicker (and less graphic) way to say "vaginal birth after cesarean.” It means that just because you had your first child through cesarean, you don't absolutely have to for your second. Not long ago, one c-section meant you were destined to have c-sections forever more. Today though, 72 to 76 percent of women who've had c-sections can later give birth the “regular” way. And according to new research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, more than two-thirds of women attempting VBAC are successful.

The study’s chief author, Hannah Knight, and her team collected information on 143,970 mothers and found that at least 60 percent of moms under the age of 35 were willing to try to delivery vaginally after having a  c-section — as long as they had the opportunity to discuss their options with their doctors beforehand. Knight says, “An informed discussion about whether or not to attempt a vaginal delivery after a caesarean section requires an assessment of the risk of emergency caesarean, and this paper provides valuable information both for women and the obstetricians and midwives caring for them.”

The trouble with a VBAC is that there is a risk (albeit a small one) that you could rupture your uterus. Second time moms sometimes want a VBAC because they want to experience a vaginal delivery. Others may have trouble affording another c-section (they’re typically about $3,000 more than a vaginal birth), or they want to avoid the longer recovery time associated with surgery. A successful VBAC could reduce the risk of baby having respiratory problems after birth, says Patrick O’Brien, MD, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), which performed the study.

O’Brien adds that “women with a prior history of one uncomplicated caesarean section should be able to discuss the option of planned VBAC and the alternative of a repeat caesarean section with their obstetrician.” He notes that every woman is different, so discussing personal motivations, preferences, benefits and risks with your OB is important. Make sure to do this before your third trimester begins.

As long as your doctor used a low transverse incision (which forms stronger scars and reduces risk of rupture) in your c-section, you probably can attempt a VBAC. (Check with your doctor to find out what kind incision you had — it’s impossible to tell just by looking.) Also, if you're past your due date, have complications such as diabetes, or are over age 40, a VBAC might not be the best option.

Plus, More from The Bump:

Elective C-Section vs. Vaginal Birth

Natural Birth 101

Healing After a Vaginal Birth