Women shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to have a natural childbirth simply because they’ve had a cesarean previously. Kristen Oganowski, mother, doula and blogging birth advocate, is working to provide women the tools they need to push for natural birth through recent research and findings. We think it’s a powerful, remarkable cause — and a necessary one, too.
Sometimes even I can’t believe that I really had a non-medicated, in-hospital, water birth VBAC. This experience had been a dream of mine for so long that I often have to remind myself that the actual experience of a natural birth was not a dream. But it was real, and it was empowering, and it was a dream come true. I had to fight (hard) for my VBAC, and would like to help other women avoid the struggles that I, myself faced.
Just last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a Consensus Development Conference on VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). It was refreshing to hear from the NIH panel that VBAC is a “reasonable option for many pregnant women.” This is a very significant finding in the current birth climate in which:
- Nearly one-third of babies are delivered by cesarean section.
- The VBAC rate decreased dramatically from approximately 23 percent in 1996 to just 8.5 percent in 2007.
- Many OB/GYNs and midwives often refuse to attend VBACs because of medico-legal concerns.
- Approximately 30 percent of hospitals have written policies banning VBACs.
After attending the conference and fully absorbing the gravity of this consensus, I asked myself, What could I do to help facilitate self-advocacy? I was sure that the NIH statement could be just the tool that women seeking a VBAC in the U.S. have been looking for — to fight a local VBAC ban, discuss their natural birthing options with care providers, or even simply decide for themselves between a VBAC and a repeat cesarean section. Thus, the “NIH Consensus Statement Primer” emerged.
I am now partnering with Amy Romano (certified nurse-midwife and blogger for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility) and some other amazing birth organizations, advocates and bloggers, and the work for this primer is well underway! We hope for it to be accessible, informative and empowering — a real tool that women can use to help advocate for themselves, their babies and their birthing choices. The panel has yet to release its final statement on VBAC. (The current consensus statement is only a draft version.) After the final statement is released in late April or early May, we hope to have an online version of the primer available four to six weeks later.
Our primer will include:
- Risks and benefits of VBAC and elective repeat cesarean
- An analysis of the “critical gaps” that the NIH panel found in the research on VBAC
- Ideas for pushing care providers and hospitals to publicize their VBAC rates
- Tips for discussing VBAC and the consensus statement with care providers.
What do you think about VBACs and the current resistance of the medical community to provide them? Do hospitals in your area do VBACs? Have you heard of any VBAC success stories? Do you think that this primer could help you or another birthing mama you know?
We’d love to hear from you. Please share your feedback, questions and ideas in the “comment” field below!
Kristen is a feminist mother. A doula and future lactation educator who’s working on a PhD in philosophy. She’s a birth and breastfeeding advocate, a lover of good food and wine, an obsessive fan of various books and television shows, and the wife of a wonderful man who happens to be an attorney.
Finding a care provider who supports your decision to have a VBAC is essential for success. Check out these PDFs for helpful tips on choosing and changing your care provider:
Also, watch this video on avoiding unnecessary birth interventions: