A Midwife Shares How to Prepare for a Successful VBAC

Preparing for a VBAC can feel intimidating, but the five tips below can help you increase your odds of having a successful vaginal birth after a c-section.

First off, congratulations on your decision to birth vaginally and avoid a repeat cesarean. Even though you’re still pregnant, or maybe even just considering pregnancy at this point, the decision can feel enormous.

If you’re considering a VBAC, there are probably many questions on your mind, including:

  • How can I increase my chances of a successful VBAC?
  • How do I prepare for a VBAC?
  • What are my chances of a successful VBAC?
  • Is VBAC safer than repeat cesarean?

This post will dive into these topics so you can feel more confident and prepared for your attempt at VBAC. Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions!

Mom preparing for VBAC

Is a VBAC safer than a repeat cesarean?

Yes, vaginal delivery after a cesarean holds fewer risks than having repeat surgery for most individuals. With the tips, let’s explore the best ways to support having a successful vaginal birth after having had a prior cesarean delivery (VBAC).

Six midwife-approved tips to increase your chances of a successful VBAC

The most important thing you can do to support your VBAC journey is bolster your confidence. We’ve also outlined six additional and instrumental steps to help you increase your chances of a successful VBAC.

1. Be your best advocate

There’s a lot of undoing and relearning that needs to happen after you’ve had a previous cesarean.

Many people hold onto fears of what their bodies are not capable of. They’re left wondering if their body failed them last time or if they can physically or mentally handle a vaginal birth this time.

Begin to prepare for VBAC by:

You must name any fears or concerns you may have going into this next birth and remind yourself how powerful you are. Make sure to share these fears with your selected provider and learn more about the power of self-advocacy during pregnancy.

As you begin to find your voice, it’s imperative that you also find a supportive birth team. This includes your provider, partner, friends, or doula if you’ve got one and anyone else walking alongside you during this pregnancy.

Focus on surrounding yourself with a team of people to rally you through this pregnancy and labor who will remind you of your strength every step of the way. It pays to have everyone on board with your plan for a VBAC.

More on finding a VBAC-supportive provider below.

2. Read positive birth stories

Begin preparing for your VBAC by educating yourself on your prior birth and all its circumstances, including reading positive vaginal birth stories to fill your mind with powerful and positive birth associations.

The more you read (or watch!) about what our bodies are capable of, the more confident you will begin to feel in your VBAC journey.

3. Reconnect with your body

Your body has brought you this far in life and even got you through that wild cesarean surgery. It’s a remarkable thing and should be honored for its capabilities. Become your body’s loudest and proudest cheerleader.

If you’re curious about preparing your body for a VBAC, start by finding ways to get in tune with it, including:

  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Breathwork
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga

Ultimately, focus on activities that bring you into direct communication and harmony with your body.

4. Find a VBAC-supportive provider

The rate of cesareans in the United States is around 32%. With such high rates and the regularity of this surgery, you must know your provider and their VBAC rates.

The success rates of a VBAC by the provider can vary as widely as 0.5%-87%, so ask questions and do your research. Interview your local PCPs, OBs, CNMs, and Licensed Midwives.

Consider how often the births they attend result in induction, cesarean, or successful VBACs. Keep in mind that the provider you choose can help increase your chances of a successful VBAC.

Birth after having had a cesarean is similar to giving birth for the first time, but some clinical nuances can significantly affect your care and the success rates.

Make sure your chosen provider has a rich history of supporting people through this kind of labor. Just because a provider states they will “let you try” doesn’t mean they will guide you through the process and preserve your chances of a vaginal delivery.

Consider how often the births they attend result in induction, cesarean, or successful VBACs.

If anyone says they’ll “let” you do something with your own body, it’s probably safe to move on to the next available provider.

You’re the expert in your own body and looking for someone to safeguard and support you through a regular physiologic event. Find a provider proudly supporting people through VBAC, not one who is just okay with it.

finding a vbac practitioner

5. Pick the perfect place to give birth

Don’t forget to consider where you plan on having your VBAC because where you give birth matters. It’s the same deal as interviewing providers — you’ve got to do a bit of research on the sites you may deliver in.

Even if you’ve picked the best provider in the world, be sure the institution or group they practice in supports their VBAC ethos. 

Consider if your provider be able to provide the VBAC care you desire, or will their hands be tied by institutional or practice protocols?

It’s essential to be comfortable in labor and feel confident and in control. Our pain receptors change depending on our environment, so be sure to tour hospitals and birth centers. Even consider your own home and check out where you feel best.

Wherever you feel safe and in control is where you will labor best. Trust your gut on this decision. For some people, that’s in the hospital’s labor ward, while for others, it’s a freestanding birth center or in their bedroom.

6. Create a simple birth plan

Another critical thing to consider when aiming for a VBAC is keeping your birth plan as simplified as possible to help lower the intervention rate. We know the fewer interventions that occur at birth, the higher your chance of a successful VBAC.

The goal here is a normal, un-intervened physiologic birth. That may be easier said than done, though. While you may end up needing some interventions along the ride (and that’s okay!), starting with a team specialized in supporting you through an un-intervened birth journey can make a difference.

Midwives, in particular, specialize in this type of birth and may be worth considering as a part of your team.

If giving birth in a hospital, many interventions are readily available and regularly used. Also, think about hiring a doula familiar with physiologic birth and can help avoid the unnecessary use of those interventions.

Consider taking a childbirth education course geared toward physiologic birth. You’ll learn about different labor positions that can aid progress and comfort. You’ll also discover various foods and drinks that can keep you satiated while keeping energy levels stable throughout labor.

Keeping your birth plan focused on simple things like movement, nourishment, and support can significantly decrease your likelihood of certain interventions like IV fluids, epidurals, induction therapies, etc.

More on preparing for a successful VBAC

As we mentioned earlier, the rate of cesareans in the United States is around 32%. There is a slew of reasons your previous birth may have resulted in a surgical delivery.

Still, the World Health Organization states no maternal or neonatal benefits are associated with national cesarean rates higher than 10%.

It is worth considering why the United States rate is so high in the first place, but we’ll save that complicated topic for another day.

While VBAC is typically the safest option after having had a cesarean, our national statistics prove that the medical model doesn’t support them. It takes diligence, perseverance, and determination to have a successful VBAC within this system, but you can do it.

You are terrific, so find amazing people to support you. Find a fantastic place to give birth. And keep that birth as sweet and straightforward as you want it to be.

Morgan Miller

CPM, LDM, LM of Soft Corner Midwifery

Morgan is a Licensed Midwife and the owner of SOFT CORNER Midwifery. She has over seven years of experience caring for people throughout their reproductive cycles. Dedicated, kind, and considerate, Morgan doesn’t think twice about running that extra mile for her clients. She has a fierce enthusiasm for what she does and supports the vision of essential reproductive rights and high-quality reproductive care being available to everyone.

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