Updated: May 17
Are you preparing for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) birth? Or desiring one the next time you get pregnant?
The rate of c-section births in the United States, according to the most recent data*, is 32.1%. That’s nearly ⅓ of all births!!
However, the rate of VBAC births is only 14.2 per 100 live births*. This number is low, and part of this is because of the lack of education and resources available.
In this blog post, we’re going to go through 5 tips to help you prepare for a VBAC birth, as well as share some evidence-based resources so that you can feel informed and confident in your options when it comes to your birth!
If we are meeting for the first time - Hi! Welcome to Vibrant Mama Wellness! My name is Megan, and I am a pre and postnatal personal trainer. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a specialization in pre+postnatal fitness through Pronatal fitness. I am a mom to a toddler, and pregnant with my second baby!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. This blog post is based on my own research and experience - please consult a medical professional before starting or making any changes to your exercise program).
First and foremost, you want to make sure that you are a good candidate for a VBAC. Be sure to check with your provider and get the post-op notes from your previous c-section. Typically people who have a low transverse (horizontal) incision are good candidates!
If you are a good candidate, here are 5 tips to take to set yourself up for success!
Since a c-section is major abdominal surgery and directly impacts the uterus, you want to give your body ample time to heal. The recommended length of time is 18 months between births (the longer between births the better). So if you’re not yet pregnant and desiring a VBAC, this is something to take into consideration!
FIND A VBAC SUPPORTIVE PRACTITIONER
It used to be said “once a c-section, always a c-section” and some providers and hospitals are not supportive of VBAC births. Be sure to do your research to find a provider and hospital that ARE supportive of you trying for a VBAC! Interview them ahead of time, ask about their c-section rates, and ask what their policies are. The earlier you can do this in your pregnancy the better!
EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
Exercise has so many benefits when it comes to pregnancy and birth, and this remains true for VBACs. The types of exercise you want to prioritize for a VBAC are those that increase pelvic mobility and increase strength and stamina!
In order for the baby to get through the pelvis, there are 3 levels that need to open: the pelvic inlet (top of pelvis), the mid pelvis, and the pelvic outlet (bottom of the pelvis). In my Vibrantly You™ Pregnancy Program, we incorporate all of these movements to help you prepare for birth!
In addition to pelvic mobility, you want to work on increasing strength and stamina. With a VBAC, a lot of times inductions and certain interventions aren’t recommended, so the more you can move during labor, the better! Doing Labor Intensity Interval Training (LIIT) and strengthening the lower body (think lots of squats) can make a big impact.
RELAX THE PELVIC FLOOR
The pelvic floor muscles need to be able to relax and lengthen so they can move out of the way for the baby to come through. Many times people will have labor stall, or pushing time will be increased due to tight pelvic floor muscles. Ways to relax the pelvic floor include: breathing exercises, stretches that target the pelvic floor, and perineal massage. You really want to prioritize this no later than 34 weeks of pregnancy! If you feel that you have a lot of pelvic floor tension, I recommend seeking out a pelvic floor physical therapist for an evaluation.
HIRE A DOULA
I know this isn’t feasible for everyone financially, but hiring a doula can make a huge difference in your VBAC success. Doulas can help not only with positioning techniques and ways to cope with labor pain, but also offer a lot of emotional support. Additionally, they provide you with evidence-based education and help you advocate for yourself so that you feel empowered in your choices when it comes to your birth!
I know preparing for a VBAC can feel daunting (I’m currently preparing for one as well!) but know that you do have options when it comes to your birth, and the best thing you can do is educate yourself and make a decision that feels best for you and your family! There is no way to guarantee that you will have a successful VBAC, but how you prepare goes a long way. Below is a list of recommended evidence-based sources for you to check out!
Recommended evidence-based sources:
VBAC Link https://www.thevbaclink.com/
Evidence Based Birth https://evidencebasedbirth.com/ebb-113-the-evidence-on-vbac/
VBAC Facts https://vbacfacts.com/
March of Dimes https://www.marchofdimes.org/peristats/data?lev=1&obj=1®=99&slev=1&stop=360&top=8
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Disclaimer: This blog does not serve as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider before starting a new fitness routine. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.