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How to prepare for a successful VBAC (including 20+ VBAC & cesarean birth resources)

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A successful VBAC is possible. Go for it, mama.

Let me set the record straight: No, I’m not a midwife. And no, I’m not a doula. But apparently when you spend any period of time posting and advocating for women and maternal health, this becomes a real assumption. (I get a lot of emails!) So let me make this clear from the onset: I am a regular mom – exactly like most of you reading this. I just happened to have a passion for “birthy stuff,” as my midwife friend Naomi puts it.

I’ve been pregnant three times, resulting in an emergency cesarean, a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and a miscarriage at 13 weeks. Obviously all three of these experiences were extremely different, and I’ve learned—am still learning—so much about what it means to not only deliver a child… but to birth a child into the world.

As my friend Becca says, “pizzas are delivered, babies are birthed”.

Family-centric birth

I am a passionate believer that birth should be family-centric; it’s not all about baby, nor is it all about mama. Birth is perhaps the most incredible—at least miraculous—right of passage for a woman and I believe it should be absolutely celebrated and approached in a way that is both empowering for a woman and loving for her baby.

For many women that means pursuing a VBAC.

I assume that most reading this post are here for that reason. Perhaps you still have doubts or questions and you’re on your journey to explore your options. I’ve decided not to get into the merits of VBAC vs. elective cesarean on this post, but at the end I will list several resources if you are still trying to decide what is safest and best. Obviously I’m pro-VBAC or else I wouldn’t be writing this, but I’ll let the experts tell you the expert stuff and I’ll just stick to my own experiences of what helped make my VBAC successful.

How to prepare for a successful VBAC

6 suggestions to help plan and prepare for a successful VBAC:

1) Learn, learn, learn.

Even though I had longed for a natural birth with my first son, when I first began to research my options for baby number two, I wasn’t yet sold on having a VBAC and was very open to having an elective ‘gentle’ cesarean. The competing voices confused me and I felt a measure of fear and inadequacy surrounding my ability to give birth naturally. But as I researched the real risks and benefits of a VBAC verses an elective cesarean, I realized that it would be far healthier for both my baby and I (and less risky) for me to plan for a VBAC. (Research = your care providers, Dr. Google, a birth center or hospital run prenatal/birthing class, real moms who’ve been there, etc.) Deciding I would pursue a VBAC is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but I wouldn’t have gotten there had I not done the research and weighed the options myself. Knowledge is power, ladies, and as natural a process as giving birth is, it’s one that requires us to be our most powerful selves. So get yourself informed, girls!

2) Find a supportive health provider.

This one was tricky for me since I was birthing my son through the public health system (in Australia) where you don’t have a specific doctor or midwife assigned to you. (Yes, I found that exceedingly difficult, but that’s another post entirely.) If at all possible, keep looking until you find someone. During my pregnancy I saw four different obstetricians, several midwives, and a couple of different specialists (because it was thought our son might have down syndrome). Even with all of the bouncing from office to office, we found nearly all were open to my pursuit of a VBAC. (I realize not everyone has it this “easy”. This is a comment on the wonderful level of care and support at my local hospital.) If you can, consider giving birth in a birth center. A recent study in the US found that the incidence of cesarean births for low-risk women in a birth center is four times lower than that of hospitals. (Links below.) So obviously, your care provider can make a massive difference in your success.

3) Write a birth plan.

You’re more likely to have a successful VBAC if you’ve thought through the implications and planned for your responses. In my opinion, birth plans are much more for the mother than the care providers because they will help you to grapple with important issues and address the ‘why’ of your decisions. As you grow in conviction about what you feel is best for your birth, it will help instill confidence for you to follow-through, even in the face of challenge. (Need help? Here are four reasons to write a birth plan and some practical tips for writing a birth plan.)

4) Get support.

This might mean finding a friend who’s gone before you, connecting with an online or local support group, or hiring a doula. (Statistically those who have a doula have a higher success rate for natural births and VBACs.) During my pregnancy I connected with three other women locally who shared their stories with me and encouraged me that I could do it.

5) Communicate your goals.

In addition to your discussions with your health provider, make sure to take the time to communicate with your husband or partner so he can understand why you’re making the decisions you are. If he is included (not just ‘informed’) then he’ll be able to advocate for you more effectively if there comes a time when you need it. He’ll also be in a better position to support you personally during birth.

6) Don’t rush to the hospital and limit interventions.

In most of our hospitals, once you’re admitted the clock starts ticking and most centers have policies in place that dictate “acceptable” time periods for the different stages of labor before different interventions are introduced. (Sometimes these will be suggested, sometimes they will be “required” – find our your local hospital’s policies in advance.) If you can hold off, try to make sure you are well established in active labor before you make your debut in the maternity ward. If you’re able to stay home as long as possible and avoid all the ‘clocks’ being set you’ll have the highest chance of a successful VBAC by limiting the amount of interventions. (Again, for all the expert reasons why, see the resource list below.)

Don't be afraid of trying for a VBAC.

I can tell you from personal experience that having a VBAC was both healing and empowering. To this day it was perhaps my proudest, most triumphant moment. Even though it was the most physically grueling thing I have ever been through (I had a difficult labor and birth due to Judah’s positioning), it was absolutely the most thrilling and empowering experience of my life. To say I felt like Superwoman for a short while after my VBAC is an understatement. I was basically on top of the world – I’d wish that feeling on any new mother.

Use your brain and your intuition.

When making your decision whether or not to have a VBAC or not, here is my number one tip: Use your brain and your intuition. Both are important. Ultimately you are the one poised and responsible to make the best decisions for you and your baby. Your OBGYN or midwife should be your biggest ally, most skilled coach, and most intentional cheerleader. Not only is she there to expertly handle an emergency situation, but she is there to advise you, support you, and help empower you to have the best birth possible for you and for your baby. (If you feel she isn’t, then you might consider finding a new one.)

You can do this, mama. If it’s a VBAC that you want, pursue it and pray for it and plan for it. The odds of having a successful one are in your favor.

Dear mama-friends, have you had a successful VBAC? What do you think best helped in your preparations for birth? And if you are considering pursing one but are still on the fence, what is most holding you back? (I hope the resource list below will help.)

Love,
A

p.s. Need some inspiration for your decision or preparation? Here’s my VBAC story, including some amazing birth photos of the entire process (minus a couple of the most-awesome-but-too-graphic ones of course) or a rare piece of poetry of that I’ve published.

 

VBAC or repeat cesarean birth? 20+ resources to help you decide.

VBAC & Cesarean Birth Resource List:

 

31 Days of Women Empowering Women at AdrielBooker.com

 

This post is part of a series called 31 Days of Women Empowering Women. See hundreds of incredible #31Days projects here.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Rin 17 October 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I had a very unsuccessful VBAC. I’m sure I did everything in my power to make it successful but in the end it wasn’t in my power.
    But it was still so worth it.

    Every hour I was in labour was worth it so that I could fill up on hormones and work hard for my little babe I love.

    It’s hard to not feel like a failure but important to know that medical intervention is there for a reason.

    • Reply Adriel 17 October 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Yes Rin, I couldn’t agree more. I’m sorry that your VBAC was ‘unsuccessful’ in that in the end you still needed a cesarean birth, but you’re totally right – every hour of your labor was not in vain. I love that you have that perspective. And a cesarean birth is a birth too – it’s far more than a medical procedure and I’m very grateful that I had mine with my first son. Ultimately we can prepare as much as possible, but still need to be at peace that there will be factors beyond our control. I have several friends who would have either lost their lives or lost their babies without medical intervention. We should never, ever forget that!! Thanks for sharing your perspective. x
      Adriel recently posted..Breaking the silence: Mothers sharing stories about miscarriage, stillbirth, and baby loss My Profile

    • Reply Michelle 12 May 2015 at 5:22 am

      Hi , I have 7 kids my 7th baby was my 1st c section I went into labor in my tub at home a little after 8 30 pm had him at 9 01 pm they said he was coming out feet down and I was 29 weeks preggo so they told me I’d have to have a c section I told them numerous times no no I push out my babies well after it was all down they were pushing my bed to recovery room they told me they had to cut my uterus like a t insicion that I would not qualify for a vbac I’m not preggo right now but for future references I want to know how much truth there is to this and any website of women that have same thing as me and their stories because if there is a possible option for me I’d like to be well informed in the case I ever get pregnant again I want to be prepared . Thank you.

  • Reply Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com 22 October 2013 at 6:22 am

    Thank you so much. Pinned it for further reading and research when the time comes. VBAC is my dream.
    Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com recently posted..when the online life and the “real” life collideMy Profile

    • Reply Adriel 22 October 2013 at 3:03 pm

      I hope it helps Aprille! x

  • Reply Tina Ziegenfusz 25 October 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This is another really good resource for deciding between VBAC and repeat caesarean that I share with a lot of my clients:

    http://www.havingababy.org.au/media/pdf/birthyourbaby_previouscaesarean.pdf

    Great post :)
    Tina Ziegenfusz recently posted..How To Make Hormone SoupMy Profile

  • Reply 35+ Resources and Encouragement for New Moms 30 October 2013 at 11:13 pm

    […] How to Prepare for a Sucessful VBAC (including 20+ VBAC and cesarean birth resources) […]

  • Reply Jessica 21 December 2013 at 11:13 am

    I love this post for many reasons.. first i have a Levi who i had an emergency C-section with and our 2nd child is a Judah who i also was able to do a VBAC with!:) But like you mentioned it was hard to find someone who would allow a VBAC.. in my area i there were only 2 hospitals that would even allow the possible chance of a VBAC.. and 1 hospital would not even let me attempt it.. So needless to say i had to find a new doctor and know i was “risking it’. I am honored (as you had mentioned you felt like super woman..) my 2nd child was VBAC with epidural so was our 3rd. BUT i am super pleased (and i was on a natural high for like HOURS after) to say our 4th child who was born 18 days ago was COMPLETELY natural.. no epidural at all and a smooth natural VBAC delivery!! SOO thrilled:)

    • Reply Adriel 13 February 2014 at 9:42 am

      First of all, congrats on the new baby!!! And how wonderful that you were able to experience a smooth, natural VBAC. Love your courage after Levi was born to find medical staff that would accommodate your wishes with Judah. Makes me so sad that the system there is so heavily dictated by policy, rather than taking an approach that is more empowering to women. And look at you – three VBACs later and still smiling. Well done Jessica! :) And maybe you should tell me your last two kids’ names so I know what to call our next two. LOL!
      Adriel recently posted..Are You a Leader or a Manager? | How Leadership Changes Our ParentingMy Profile

      • Reply jessica 2 September 2014 at 5:07 pm

        haha!! Selah and Lydia… and we are expecting # 5!!! yeah!!!

    • Reply Nicki 16 December 2014 at 7:08 am

      Wow this is so encouraging!! I’m 23 weeks pregnant with my second and planning on a VBAC. I love hearing these success stories! I labored 38 hours with my first then had a c-section. Really was heartbreaking for me and I struggled with that for many months. Thank you ladies for sharing your stories!!!

  • Reply Mariah 31 January 2014 at 5:02 pm

    My first was an emergency c section after being induced and in hard labor for 10 hours. Not a pleasant experience and the healing period was just awful. Left me feeling like I’d been run over by a freight train. My milk didn’t come in for over a week and I struggled a lot as a first time mom. My second go a year and a half later and my doctor (I’ve had the same thru all including #4 due any day) was the one who encouraged me to have a vbac. So grateful of his skills and professionalism. Baby 2 came hard and fast 1 week before my due date, on a full moon nonetheless! I just wish I’d walked around more to let my body progress naturally instead if lying in bed. With #3 I felt like I had this (even tho it was a very complicated pregnancy from 14 weeks on) I knew what I needed to do. #3 was 3 weeks early but I walked and walked and walked some more before taking a nice warm bath and then bam he was here before I knew it, easiest birth by far and least recovery time (although recovery with #2 was still much better than with the c section, this was even better) Now with #4 I’m ready for whatever comes. My best advice is take it as it comes, be prepared to accept whatever comes and deal with it as calmly as possible. It helps to have a trusted doctor and staff to help you thru it all, and I have been very lucky with that. Vbac is so worth exploring the possibility of even if you decide otherwise in the end or for medical reasons. Get a good doctor that’s going to help you achieve your wishes as best as they can.

  • Reply Angela 28 May 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Well our stories are very similar. I had an emergency c-section with my first, a successful vbac with number two and I lost baby number three. I am now 33 wks prego with boy number 3. I was on the fence about a vbac with number 2 because I labored for 31 hrs with number one made it to 3 cm and had an emergency c-section. All of this made me doubt my bodies ability to progress in labor. I finally made the decision because my husband had confidence that I could do it. Proud to say that I had a sucesful vbac after 31 hr of labor. It was amazing!!! I hope all women get the opeotunity to succeed in a vbac. The healing process is so much easier even with an episiotomy. that tore it is easier then a c section. Knowledge is power! Learn everything that you can about the risks and benifits of both a repeat and a vbac. Keep I mind that God made women to give birth. He knew what he was doing. Thankfully he also gave us brains to learn how to do c section if something goes wrong. Personally the risk of having a vbac are much much lower then the risk of a repeat csection. I know that not everyone comes to the same conclusion. At the end of the day it is a personal decision and as long as you are at peace with it who cares. I am hoping and planing for another successful vbac.

    • Reply Adriel 31 May 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story Angela. And yes, sounds very similar to mine on many levels!! Big congrats on your newest baby – you’ve not long to go now! :) I’ve just found out I’m pregnant – so still early days – but I’m already thinking about my next VBAC and can’t wait to give birth again! (Though I’d like to skip the back labor this time, thankyouverymuch.) Best of luck with it all!! x

  • Reply Tamara 1 September 2014 at 4:43 am

    Thank you so much for writing this! I had an emergency cesarean after labouring for 70 hours and reaching 9.5cm. I ended up with a significant anterior lip and baby went into distress. She was born with TTN (fancy for respiratory distress) so was whisked away to special care. I finally had skin on skin with her 10 hours later. Not exactly what i expected but God had other ideas and we rolled with it :) I now feel like i can handle anything thats thrown my way. I’d love to try for a VBAC with baby #2. Any advice on how long to wait between births?

  • Reply elle 15 October 2015 at 4:45 am

    i’m in week 13 and still not sure which option i should go for..thank you for the information
    really helpful

  • Reply VBAC Resources - 28 October 2015 at 9:01 pm

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