If one in three women in the USA is going to birth by cesarean, we need to talk about this phenomena. By default, VBAC becomes an important topic. VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean, while a safe option for most women, is rarely pursued or achieved.
VBAC however is possible and often an incredibly safe option, especially for the long term health of the mom and baby. There are things that make VBAC difficult- VBAC bans, finding a supportive provider, overcoming fears, and more.
There are also many things that make VBAC probable.
You are not alone in planning a VBAC. Many women have done the same and often with triumphant results. Here are some VBAC tips from moms who know.
Many VBAC moms recognize that their own mindset is key to planning a VBAC. Leslie Geick, is a doula and childbirth educator in Dallas, TX, as well as a VBAC mom herself. She says,
"Sometimes I tell people that what got me through the finish line was absolute iron will/stubbornness. It is funny, but there is a lot of truth to it. Also, I was much more careful about nutrition and exercise during pregnancy, I hired a doula who saw my vision, I labored at home for as long as we felt it was safe. I asked my provider to put notes everywhere that I was allowed to eat, drink, and dose my medication (for diabetes) throughout labor. Support from the entire team and iron will worked. Every time I doubted, which was every contraction, my husband and doula reminded me that I could and was doing this."
Surrounding yourself with a top notch support team is advice you will hear repeatedly from VBAC moms and truly VBAC supportive birth workers. The truth is, if you have everything else perfect and your care provider doesn't really support VBAC, it probably won't be happening for you.
Check out what these moms have to say.
LaQuita Glass, a childbirth educator in Mountain View, CA, former president of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and a VBAC mom says this,
"Make sure that your support/care team truly respects and honors your desire for a VBAC. If you do not have people attending your labor/birth who respect your right to a physiologic birth, it can greatly decrease your chances of having a nonsurgical birth."
Erin Marney, a childbirth educator in Teller County, Colorado and VBAC mom echoes this thought,
"I think having a supportive care provider was absolutely essential in attaining a VBAC. Having a partner who supported my decision and understood how important it was to me was a close second. Even when I doubted myself, there was only encouragement from my support team."Â
Caryn Westdyk is what some would consider a "unicorn" in the birth world. She has had two VBAC births- after having THREE cesareans. Guess what? Caryn isn't a unicorn- there are many women like her who have achieved vaginal birth after multiple cesareans. They know what Caryn knows. Caryn is a doula and childbirth educator in Carrollton, TX. She explains,
"I never tell people that I think they should have a VBAC, because it's so important to truly want it. The biggest key to a VBAC is choosing a supportive provider, one that you know will want a VBAC for you as much as you do. Choosing the right provider is 50% of the battle already won. Then, I believe it's important to be armed with education, hire a Doula, get chiropractic care and surround yourself only with people who will support you."
Your care provider isn't the only influence on your VBAC. Look for a complete birth team. A doula can help you achieve your VBAC, a chiropractor can help with optimal positioning, comfort, and more. Massage therapists, childbirth educators, an awesome partner- all of these people can support you and help you achieve the birth you want!
Prepare in All Ways-
Women preparing for VBAC can seem to have the odds against them. Preparing in every way possible can help put the odds on YOUR side. This might seem like a big task that will involve checklists and a lot of work- and it probably is. Melissa Kosloski, a VBAC mom, childbirth educator, and doula in St. Cloud, MN says,
"I think for most, just wanting a VBAC isn't going to be enough to achieve one. There are often so many obstacles that women will face. You have to prepare. Mentally and physically. Take a comprehensive childbirth class. The more you understand about the process, the better you will be able to navigate it. Research the pros and cons of everything so you can feel confident in your decisions.
Process your previous birth(s). Birth is more of a mind game than we realize and you have to be able to approach your VBAC with a clean slate. Hire a doula. For so many reasons, hire a doula. See a Webster certified chiropractor. Optimal fetal positioning is SO crucial for many VBAC moms. Eat well and exercise. Your body isn't broken, but you need to take steps to allow it to work efficiently. Stack the deck in your favor. Change care providers and place of birth until you are in a place that supports you and physiological birth. Being able to truly trust your provider is HUGE! But above all, trust yourself. Your body and baby knows what it needs to do, follow it's lead and trust the process!"
In short, leave no stone unturned! If you think that something might help you prepare for your VBAC, then do it.
Women are often surprised by the impact any type of birth experience can have on their psyche. The idea that birth is a transformative experience isn't just marketing- it is true. You will be deeply touched and changed by your birth and if you felt like your birth was traumatizing, that can be difficult. (Check out this post by Lauren- she gives great information on preparing your mind for how to have a VBAC.)
Emotional preparation for VBAC is so important.
Elizabeth Rozsa, a doula and childbirth educator in Rockford, IL, says this,
"As a doula I've been so thankful for the opportunity to come alongside numerous mothers & families supporting their VBAC experiences. One of the most helpful suggestions I like to offer my doula clients is to take time to process through any negative emotions/fears from their previous birth experience before their upcoming VBAC birth. Getting involved and utilizing the peer to peer support and resources found in the local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter is one way to do that!"
Without education regarding birth, women may not even know that VBAC is safe and possible for them! Education about VBAC is key to your preparations and learning all you need in order to be prepared. In fact, great childbirth education can help you find the birth team and emotional support that are also necessary. Bekah, a childbirth educator in Indianapolis, IN and VBAC mom says,
"Education! I feel like that's what I come back to with everything regarding birth but if you don't know you can VBAC or what yourÂ options are regarding how you VBAC- like do you have to get an epidural or can you go over 40 weeks gestation- it's probably not going to happen for you."
We can't underestimate the power of knowledge in birth preparation.
Birth takes time. First there is over 9 months of pregnancy, then hours and hours of labor. All birth takes time, but patience is even more important for VBAC moms. Cameo, a mother of five and doula in Bowie and Annapolis, MD points out,
"I believe one of the leading factors that influences the outcome of a VBAC is the care provider's support and patience to allow her body to birth her baby."
Be patient. Babies come. Bodies work. VBAC happens.
VBAC is absolutely possible. In fact, it is the optimal choice for many women. We gain so much from simply listening to supportive women who have walked this path before and know how to achieve what we are just beginning to plan. We hope that these VBAC tips from moms who know help you prepare for your VBAC.
Thanks so much to Hillary Stillwell, who allowed us to use the gorgeous picture of her nursing her VBAC baby at the top of the page. She teaches birth classes in Midlothian, TX.Â