If you have had a previous c-section and want to have a vaginal birth, let’s talk about how to have a successful VBAC.
As a VBA2C parent and experienced doula, I completely understand the emotions that come with preparing for a VBAC. The extra comments, opinions, and pressures that expectant parents hear can be overwhelming and completely unnecessary.
That’s why I’ve put together these 15 tips that can up your chances of having a successful VBAC.
The most important thing to remember is there is no failing in birth. Any kind of birth is an incredible accomplishment, even if you end up needing a repeat c-section. A family-centered cesarean can be a calm and healing birth experience too, whether or not it’s your first choice.
Now, let’s get into all the ways you can get the support you need to prepare and plan for a successful VBAC.
1. Learn the facts about VBAC
Getting the real facts about VBAC is super powerful, just as education is with anything we do in life. The more educated you are, the higher your chances of having a better experience in whatever you are doing. Birth is no different in that way.
One of the best things about living in today’s world is that we have so many resources at our fingertips. Although this access to information is such an amazing thing, it can also be problematic. How do you know if the articles, studies, forums, and blogs you find online are entirely accurate? It’s easy to find misunderstandings, fear, confusion, and information overload around VBAC.
Taking a VBAC birth course, focusing on evidence-based education, can help bring peace of mind and comfort in your decision to VBAC.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 60-80% of people who have previously had a c-section and attempt a VBAC will be successful.
Uterine rupture is probably the biggest concern surrounding VBAC. Uterine rupture is quite rare, but it does happen. Knowing the facts and understanding the risks of uterine rupture will help you make an informed decision with your healthcare provider.
2. Find a provider who supports VBAC
Next to education, a support team that is 100% on your side is most important in having a successful VBAC. When I was looking for my provider with my son I wanted a team that was rooting for me and didn’t just want to let me “try.”
I knew I could do it, but I was going to need their full support.
There is a difference between a provider who will fully support your desire for VBAC, and one who will merely tolerate. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you need to determine whether your provider is truly supportive of VBAC.
If your provider is on the tolerant side, the day you go into labor may look a little different than discussed previously. A tolerant provider may not have the patience to allow labor to follow its natural course. They may want to intervene or even encourage you to schedule a repeat cesarean before active labor begins.
Below I have listed some of the main signs that will tell you if your provider is tolerant or fully supportive when it comes to VBAC.
Signs your provider may be tolerant, but not supportive:
- They say yes, you can absolutely TRY and VBAC.
- You can VBAC, IF you go into labor by a certain date on your own
- You can VBAC, but I will NOT induce
- If they require extra growth ultrasounds. This may indicate that your provider is concerned about the baby’s size. We already know a big baby should not be a reason for scheduling a cesarean.
- If they only talk about the risks of VBAC and not the risks of repeat cesareans
- They tell you that you must have a “just in case” epidural
- They require you to come to the hospital as soon as labor begins
- They sound supportive, but practice with an unsupportive team that may attend your birth.
Signs your provider is likely supportive of VBAC:
- They say YES! They explain why they encourage VBAC, while going over the risks and benefits of both repeat c-sections and vaginal birth.
- They follow evidence based information, and suggest other measures, such as induction, in case your labor does not begin before 42 weeks. Scheduling a cesarean should not be the only option discussed.
- They continue to encourage your plan to VBAC during the pregnancy
- They want to learn your desires for birth and how they can help you have a great experience.
- A low cesarean rate (you can ask them what their rate is)
- Supports vaginal birth after multiple c-sections (VBAMC)
3. Hire a doula
In addition to finding the best provider for your VBAC, we encourage you to look into hiring a doula. Doulas can provide VBAC tips and truly make a positive impact on your birth experience.
Research shows that doulas can help lower the chances of interventions, and increase the likelihood of vaginal birth, shorter labors, spontaneous labor, and more. A VBAC-supportive doula will likely know of a VBAC-supportive provider in your area as well.
Doulas also support the birthing partner, which can take a lot of pressure off. They are there to help remind you of the facts and support you in any way you need.
In addition to our VBAC Course for Parents, we have created a doula course. We help educate doulas on what supporting VBAC looks like, and how they can help you have a successful VBAC.
We have an incredible doula directory, so you can look for a doula near you, trained in supporting VBAC.
4. Find the perfect location to birth
Choosing a location where you are going to have your baby is closely tied to finding the best birth team. When you are looking for your provider, take note of what the location is like as well.
If you have a supportive provider, but the location where they deliver has a high c-section rate or is not supportive of VBAC, you may want to reconsider your birthing location.
VBAC is possible in hospitals, and VBAC home births are also possible. Having the right support team combined with the support of your birth location can truly increase your chances of a successful VBAC.
5. Avoid induction
Induction and VBAC can oftentimes lead to quite a controversy. I want to tell you right now that VBAC can be induced safely in most circumstances. Depending on the provider, you may receive different answers.
Induction is possible with VBAC, although it is ideal for the body to go into labor spontaneously for better chances of a successful VBAC. With induction, the body is being asked to do something it may not be ready for. Interventions can cause stress on both you and your baby, which can then lead to a repeat c-section.
Sometimes a tolerant provider will put restrictions on due dates and suggest or even schedule a c-section just in case you haven’t gone into labor spontaneously by a certain gestational period.
ACOG (American College of Gynecology and Obstetricians) supports pregnancy until 42 weeks, assuming there are no true medical concerns.
If your provider tells you that you need to schedule a repeat c-section or you need to induce, don’t be afraid to question why. And when you learn the reason, it is okay to do your research and make sure you feel good about that decision.
6. Be patient
When you reach the end of your pregnancy, it can be hard to want to continue. Many of my clients reach 40 weeks and reach out, asking me for ways they can go into labor.
Although there are many things you can try, like pumping, walking, and sex, I encourage you to try your very hardest to be patient.
Trust your body and your baby that labor will begin when your baby is ready to arrive. Do things to keep yourself distracted:
- Spend time with your family and kids
- Go swimming
- Do crafts
- Read or sing to baby
- Cook meals for your postpartum
- Hang out with your friends and let the kids have playdates
- Take a lot of naps and rest up for your labor
7. Process any previous birth trauma and release fear
Whether you’ve had previous birth trauma or not, you may have some triggers that you need to work through. Going through your previous birth story and fully processing it can help you enter your next birth experience with an open mind and heart.
Remember that you are in an entirely new pregnancy and this is a different experience. It’s also helpful to do this activity with your birth partner, who may also harbor some trauma or bad feelings about what happened last time.
We have created a fear clearing activity and put it on YouTube for you. This is an activity that you can use for any and all fears that you may have from previous birth experiences or even this upcoming one. This activity is easy and effective in so many ways.
As you burn and let go of each fear or past trauma, it can help you feel free and clear, creating a peaceful space for your upcoming VBAC.
8. Create a birth plan
Creating a birth plan early on in pregnancy can help you prepare for a successful VBAC. As you create your plan, you will be able to identify what is most important to you.
It is okay to have a birth plan A, B, and C as well if you’d like. Once you have found out what type of birth you desire, present your preferences to your provider and discuss with them what you would like overall.
We have an awesome guide and template all about how to create your VBAC birth plan, along with some advice on creating a cesarean birth plan.
9. Stay healthy and fit
With my first pregnancy, I had the mentality that I was eating for two, and I would tend to eat whatever and whenever I wanted. This caught up to me very quickly when I was about 28 weeks pregnant. I started to get extreme swelling and had already gained about 26 lbs.
After I delivered my baby via c-section, I found recovery harder than I ever imagined. I was always told that when you breastfeed you just lose all the weight, but this did not happen for me at all. In addition to not having the birth outcome that I had hoped for, I also didn’t find my postpartum period easy.
Good nutrition and physical activity can help during both pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Eating a well balanced diet is important, whether or not you are pregnant. During pregnancy, our bodies are taking on a lot of extra demands, both physically and nutritionally. We are asking our bodies to break down what we eat and store the food in all the right areas to keep us and our babies healthy.
Having a healthy and well balanced diet is important. It can help avoid other health concerns such as gestational diabetes.
Good food ideas to eat during pregnancy:
- Fresh fruits
- Whole grains
During pregnancy, it is normal and healthy to gain weight. ACOG states that depending on your BMI, it is normal to gain anywhere between 11-40 lbs during pregnancy. Keep in mind some people, despite how healthy they eat, can gain over that.
When it comes to having a successful VBAC, many providers consider BMI and total weight gain. We want to remind you that being plus sized or overweight does not automatically put you into the “high risk” category, and should not disqualify you for VBAC.
Check out our blog post all about plus sized birth to learn more about your options.
Staying fit during pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean a daily run, lifting weights, or your usual fitness regime. However, a daily minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity can help your overall health and your birth outcome.
ACOG states that fitness during pregnancy can even reduce back pain and also avoid gestational diabetes. As you workout, you are also training your lungs which will help with coping during labor.
It is important to discuss both nutrition and physical activity with your provider, before you start an exercise program. If you were not doing it before you found yourself pregnant, it may not be a great fit for you during pregnancy. Once you have been cleared to workout, be mindful that you are carrying a baby, and it may be harder for you than normal.
With my son, I took both nutrition and fitness very seriously. My efforts to stay healthy throughout pregnancy left me feeling strong and capable to handle my 42 hours of labor. When it came to postpartum, I was shocked when I began running again, and it was quite easy. I also noticed that my body bounced back a lot faster than it did after my first.
Working out during pregnancy is great, but it is also important to know when it’s a good time to stop. If you ever question or have concerns with how you are feeling, never hesitate to reach out to your provider.
10. Gather those who believe in you
One of the best things you can do to have a successful VBAC is to create a positive environment for yourself. The opinions that surround VBAC can sometimes be cruel and harsh and leave people feeling doubtful of their decisions.
Being surrounded by like-minded and supportive people can uplift you on your journey.
Julie and I have created a VBAC support group on Facebook called The VBAC Link Community, filled with like minded people looking for love, support, and education. Please feel free to join this group of wonderful people.
When it comes to family and friends, it is also important to have those around who support you. As you become more educated, encourage them to educate themselves as well, so you can all have an informed discussion. Also, don’t feel like you have to welcome any negativity into your space.
11. Chiropractic care
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is a fantastic way to help the body get aligned and ready for birth. Having a balanced body and aligned pelvis can encourage babies to be in an ideal position, ready for a successful VBAC.
I started chiropractic care when I was 18 weeks pregnant. After every appointment, I could notice a difference.
Some chiropractors have a specific schedule they like to see parents on and some are a bit more casual. For me I went once a month from 18-28 weeks, and then from 29-34 I went once a week.
By the last month and a half of pregnancy, I decided to go once or twice a week depending on how I felt and if my body held my adjustment.
I was also adjusted twice while in labor, and I feel that it made such a difference in my birth. My sacrum was twisted, and after adjustment, my baby was able to get low into my pelvis, lower than my babies in previous births had ever been.
The image above was me on the phone with my amazing chiropractor, after I delivered my son. I had to call and tell her that I did it! I got my vaginal birth and wanted to thank her so much.
12. Prenatal massage
Chiropractic care and prenatal massage go hand in hand. Getting a prenatal massage before an adjustment can help your body hold the adjustment.
There is extra weight on our bodies as our babies grow. As our ligaments stretch, it can cause discomfort and tension, which can cause our bodies to tense up in areas we do not want.
If you are able to receive prenatal massages along with chiropractic care, you will not only enjoy your pregnancy more, but likely have an easier delivery.
13. Pelvic Floor Work/Massage
It is very common for people to think that pelvic floor massage is something that you would do after delivery. Although it is very beneficial to go see a pelvic floor specialist after delivery, it is also important to get treatment before.
There could be scar tissue built up or even previous trauma that may cause slower dilation and failure to progress during labor — increasing your chances of c-section. Alleviating these issues through treatment with a pelvic floor specialist prior to birth can improve the chances of a successful VBAC.
Valerie Schwable speaks on our VBAC Link podcast about how she helps coach her patients on effective pushing and avoiding trauma to the pelvic floor during birth. She also talks about how hormones can affect the pelvic floor and what we can do to help improve overall pelvic floor health.
14. Meditation and affirmations
Meditation through pregnancy is known to help bring a sense of calm and balance — not only during pregnancy but also doing childbirth.
The labor and delivery journey can be long and hard. Being able to meditate and relate to affirmations can be a powerful tool. There are many free applications out there that can help us take a simple five minutes to get into a safe and comfortable mental space. We love Headspace and Mindfulness.
Affirmations can be a powerful way of reminding yourself, and having others remind you, how strong you are. With affirmations, you can remember how capable your body is of doing such a hard task as giving birth. When things feel hard, using affirmations is wonderful and empowering.
We suggest finding some affirmations that you can relate to and printing them out or drawing them and placing them with you in your birthing suite.
15. Decide what’s best for you
For many, having a successful VBAC is everything they imagined. For some, it isn’t. Our goal is to provide you with information so you can choose what type of birth you want, whether it’s VBAC or repeat c-section.
These VBAC tips are some that we have personally found successful, for clients in our doula practices and for ourselves. We want to remind you that no matter what style of birth you have, you are a woman of strength, and you are amazing.
If your birth ends in a repeat cesarean, like my second birth, we get you, and we are always here to support you and help you cope.