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Congratulations! You’re pregnant again, and you’re hoping for a different birth experience this time around. We’re going to talk about Preparing for a Successful VBAC. It’s important to prepare your mind, body and soul for a successful VBAC
When you’re planning a vaginal birth after Cesarean, you may find yourself coming up against doubts and fears – from your family, healthcare professionals, and even yourself. This is totally normal, but it’s good to know that chances are in your favor. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 60-80% of people who attempt a trial of labor after Cesarean (TOLAC) will have a successful vaginal birth.
As you envision this coming true for you, also remember this: no matter how your birth unfolds, your body is incredible, and you are a wonderful mother. All births are an amazing feat of courage. You might need to have this baby by repeat Cesarean, and while it’s not your first choice, it doesn’t mean that your preparations for a VBAC were in vain.
Okay, now let’s talk about practical ways to prepare for a successful vaginal birth after Cesarean!
Look to the Past
It’s time to process your previous birth. How do you feel about your Cesarean? What events led to that decision, and do you feel the reasons were justified? Did you feel supported by your birth team, or are you craving something different this time?
Look to your local ICAN chapter for support in processing your Cesarean birth. Whether it was planned or completely unexpected, it’s important to come to terms with your experience in order to move forward. Talking with other moms who’ve been there can be an enormous relief, and an essential step in moving forward.
For some mothers, a licensed counselor experienced in birth trauma is the key to unlocking emotions surrounding your last birth. You might not ever feel 100% happy about your Cesarean birth. But the important part is that you’re able to look back on that day and see your incredible strength and resilience. From there, your birth plan for this baby can begin to take shape.
Look to the Present
How is your pregnancy going this time around? How do you feel about the way you are being treated by your care providers? Is your doctor or midwife fully supportive of your choice to birth this baby vaginally, or are they merely tolerant of the idea?
As a mother, you are now very much aware that you don’t have control over every piece of your parenting journey. But there are many things that are in your control – like the ways you take care of your body, mind, and soul throughout your pregnancy.
Spinning Babies is a fantastic resource for preparing your body for birth. Their core principles of balance, movement, and gravity help to align your body, optimizing your baby’s position in the womb. Chiropractic care, massage, and acupuncture are other wonderful modalities to consider in preparing your body for labor and delivery. When babies are in a favorable position with their heads down, chins tucked and hands away from their faces, they have a greater chance of making their way safely through the pelvis.
Next, educate yourself on your birthing options. The VBAC Link, VBAC Facts, and Evidence-Based Birth are great places to find up-to-date research. When weighing your options, you will find that there are no clear-cut answers. Use the BRAIN acronym (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, what-if-we-do-Nothing) to help you make choices that work for your unique situation. Your personal odds of having a successful VBAC depends on your previous reasons for Cesarean, your current risk factors and state of health, and the support and skill of your birth team.
On your birthing day, you deserve to feel calm, confident, and grounded. Look to meditation, hypnosis for pregnancy, or a licensed counselor to help tackle anxieties and strengthen your stress coping mechanisms. To build your confidence, fill your mind with positive birth stories. A birth doula experienced preparing for a successful VBAC can also be a wonderful asset during this time, providing guidance, evidence-based resources, and encouragement every step of the way.
Lastly, remember to feed your soul. When you’re preparing for a VBAC, it’s easy to get lost in the facts and figures, the mental and physical exercises. But it’s equally important that you are able to enjoy this pregnancy and to feel in touch with who you are as a person.
What brings you joy? On your evening walks, pause and appreciate the sunset. In between your favorite birth-related podcast episodes, make sure to work in your favorite album. Preparing for a beautiful birth means learning to be in the moment, to appreciate the beauty in the mundane, and to know that you can meet anything that comes your way with grace and strength of mind.
You’ve healed from major abdominal surgery before, all while learning to care for a brand-new baby. You know how essential it is to have a plan for the postpartum healing period. No matter whether this baby is born in the operating room or the delivery room, you need time to rest, to be nourished, and to bond with your newborn. Make a plan now for building your support system after birth.
Many mothers who have done the tremendous work of healing from a Cesarean are surprised to find that a life post-vaginal delivery is no walk in the park, either. It’s true that your recovery from a vaginal birth will likely be easier on several fronts – like being able to twist and reach for your baby or being able to resume light exercise earlier after birth. But healing from a vaginal birth comes with its own challenges. You may have perineal swelling or tender stitches, and you will still need to take it easy after your baby is born, too. Cold compresses, sitz baths, and a plan to maximize your postpartum sleep help make your recovery smoother.
Make a list of people to reach out to after birth when questions arise. If you’re planning to breastfeed, it’s a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant during your pregnancy. That way, you’ll be comfortable reaching out to her when you’re in the throes of the postpartum haze.
A postpartum doula or newborn care specialist is a wonderful asset to your recovery team. With training in all things new mom and baby, and being well-connected to local resources for new families, your postpartum specialist can help put your mind at ease during your first weeks with your baby. She will also be by your side to help you begin to process your new birth story, no matter which path it takes.
You’ve Got This
Preparing for a successful VBAC means taking a good, honest look at your self-care, your knowledge and beliefs, and your support system. It means taking plunges into research journals as well as relaxing deeply into your body, getting more in tune with your inner strength and knowing than ever before. Throughout your pregnancy, building your community, your knowledge, and your self-care routines is essential. With a clear mind and a rock-solid belief in yourself, you will walk into your next birth with the tools you need to have when preparing for a successful VBAC.
This blog was written by Mom, Postpartum Doula and Birth Doula- Tara. We’re proud to have Tara support families on our postpartum team!