WebMD Medical News
Daniel J. DeNoon
Louise Chang, MD
March 10, 2010 - Hospitals and professional societies should end bans
that that keep many women who've had a C-section from opting for a natural
birth in later pregnancies, an NIH advisory panel today urged.
About 75% of women succeed in having a vaginal delivery after previous
cesarean delivery, assuming that it's not a multiple birth, that the baby is in
the normal position, and that their previous C-section required only a single
But women who might want to give labor a try very often don't get a chance.
That's because of so-called "VBAC bans" -- hospital policies that forbid a
vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) unless fully equipped and staffed
surgical and anesthesia services are readily available. These policies align
with current guidelines set by gynecology and anesthesia professional
Not all hospitals are able to comply with this standard, so many women who
have had a C-section have no choice in the matter. In fact, 30% of hospitals
stopped offering women this choice after the professional-society guidelines
went into effect.
The panel of experts heard three days of testimony and scientific
presentations on questions surrounding VBAC. In the end, they urged the
professional societies to reconsider their guidelines and urged hospitals to
reconsider their policies. However, the panel has no power to force a change in
Panel chairman F. Gary Cunningham, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, noted that much more research
is needed before doctors can identify the rare women who suffer VBAC
While rare, the complications can be severe and even fatal. However, panel
member Carol J. Rowland Hogue, PhD, MPH, director of the women's and children's
center at Emory University, noted that VBAC isn't the only risk for a pregnant
"Pregnancy is something of a risky endeavor," Hogue said at a news
conference. "Women do suffer complications and their babies do have problems.
Fortunately these are rare -- but they occur irrespective of mode of delivery.
The very rare experience of maternal death is higher for C-section regardless
of whether it is primary or repeat. This is very important for providers to
Hogue, Cunningham, and other panel members pointed to a research agenda set
out in the panel report. They strongly suggested that professional societies
and hospitals would offer women more choices if they had a better understanding
of the consequences of offering -- and not offering -- VBAC.
SOURCES:News teleconference, National Institutes of Health, March 10, 2010.National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference: "Vaginal
Birth After Cesarian: New Insights," March 10, 2010.News release, National Institutes of Health.
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