Client Q&A: Vaginal birth after a cesarean birth (VBAC)

Team picture! Roberta with her daughter and her doula, Sam.

1. How did you decide a VBAC was right for you?

I didn’t expect to have a c-section my first pregnancy, and when that happened I felt more than anything that if I was able to I would attempt to have a VBAC. I did a lot of research to understand both the risks of having a repeat c-section and a VBAC, the benefits of having a VBAC vs. repeat -c-section, and the differences in recovery. In the end I really wanted a VBAC not only to get the experience I had wanted originally with my first, but also the risks of the VBAC seemed to me a bit lower based on my circumstances, and I was also hoping for a better recovery experience since I had a terrible one the first go round.

2. How did working with doulas impact your birthing experience? Would you recommend a doula to someone attempting a VBAC?

I would highly recommend working with a doula for anyone considering a VBAC and in general for anyone going through a pregnancy. From the moment I started working with Jill and Sam they helped me understand things that I could do differently, what questions I should be asking my doctor, and even provided me with information leading up to my delivery and during delivery. Particularly questions I would never had thought to ask my doctor. Going into my delivery—which ended up being an induction and increased my risk for a second c-section—I was very nervous and scared to be honest. A call the night before to go over what would happen, a refresher on the birth plan we had laid out, and when Sam would join me at the hospital, helped to ease my nerves a bit. Having a doula (Sam) in the room with me was tremendously helpful. Partner aside, she helped me with movements and exercises to help me get the baby in the right position, and when I faced a decision she helped me with encouragement and providing me with information I needed. Having a doula’s support definitely helped me to reach my objective of having a VBAC and the birthing experience I hoped for. My birth experience this go round couldn’t have been more perfect and was the experience I had always hoped to have.

Roberta’s doula, Sam, is encouraging her to be upright and mobile during the induction.

3. What would you say to a partner who was nervous about their partner wanting to try for a VBAC?

Educate your partner. I think a lot of times our partner forgets that a c-section is major abdominal surgery and many things can go wrong with them too. I also realized that the birth experience that I felt I had and what my partner felt I had the first go round were very different. So I think laying out the risks and benefits for your partner will be helpful in getting their support, but also being open with them about your feelings on why you want one is helpful. Then talk through the things you can do to ensure a different birthing experience. At the back of our heads we knew there was always the possibility for a repeat c-section if things didn’t work out the way we planned, but we knew we had to try everything first before giving into a repeat c-section. Once my partner understood why I wanted to have a VBAC and the facts around them, he supported me whole heartedly.

4. How would you describe the difference in recovery after your first birth and your second?

The difference in recovery was night and day. This go round, I got to have the hour skin-to-skin I wanted and nursed my baby almost immediately. With my first birth, I didn’t see my baby until 2 hours after delivery as I had to go under general anesthesia as after the baby came out I started to feel all the pain (which I now know should never have happened). My milk came in faster with baby 2 and I didn’t experience the weight problems I had with baby 1. Physically, I experienced different recoveries too. With my c-section, I ended up back at the doctor’s office within a couple days as my incision started to come open. It was difficult to get up and walk around, let alone lift the baby, or do anything on my own. With my VBAC, I experienced all the things that you prepare for with a vaginal delivery (everything you read about online) – there was some pain, but overall I was up and moving around within a couple hours after delivery and didn’t have any problems with infections, lifting the baby on my own, etc.

Roberta holding her daughter skin-to-skin after having her VBAC.

If you’d like to learn more about VBACs, visit these resources:

Huge thanks to Roberta for sharing her experience with the NYC Birth Village community!

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