Can you have vaginal birth after a C-section?

Safety is the key factor to consider, especially if you’re at high risk of complications.

If you are pregnant again and delivered your last baby via cesarean delivery (C-section), it still might be possible to have a vaginal birth.

While patients who attempt to have a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) have about a 60% to 80% success rate, your safety and the safety of your baby are the most important thing to keep in mind.

“Vaginal birth isn’t right for everyone,” said Kimberly S. Barnes, APRN, CNM, a midwife with Norton Women’s Care. “The main thing is to weigh all the risks to determine what is best for you and your baby.”

What are the benefits of vaginal birth?

Some patients will be better candidates for a vaginal birth after C-section than others. If you and your doctor agree to try, you will have what is called a “trial of labor after cesarean,” or TOLAC. This means you will prepare for a vaginal birth and go into labor with the goal of delivering vaginally.

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There are many reasons to consider vaginal birth. Some of the benefits include:

  • Shorter recovery time. You may have a shorter hospital stay after a vaginal birth than you would for another C-section. Avoiding surgery will help you have a faster recovery after baby arrives.
  • Some patients want to have the experience of a vaginal birth. Your partner, spouse or doula may be able to play a larger role in your delivery experience.
  • Family planning. If you are thinking of having a larger family, a vaginal birth may help you avoid some of the issues that can arise from multiple C-sections.
  • Lower risk of complications. Vaginal deliveries have lower rates of infection, bleeding, blood clotting and injury to abdominal organs.

What are the risks of vaginal birth after a C-section?

The primary risk is rupture of the uterine scar from a prior cesarean delivery. However, a rupture occurs in only about 1 in 500 patients who choose to deliver vaginally.

Even though ruptures happen in only about 1 in 500 pregnant patients, it can be very dangerous. You and your provider will need to weigh your options and evaluate your health status before deciding.

Are you a good candidate for vaginal birth after a C-section?

Being in good health and having had a prior vaginal birth make a patient a good candidate for VBAC.

Other factors include:

  • The reason for the previous C-section is not present during this pregnancy.
  • The baby is a normal size and is head-down.
  • There is no prior history of preeclampsia, stalled or induced labor.

Having a birth plan can help make sure everyone involved in delivering your baby knows what you want to happen, whether it’s a VBAC or another option.

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