HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)
My first birth was an elective Cesarean and since all I ever heard was “once a C-section, always a C-section,” I assumed that any future births would be similar. Wrong!
Even though I’ve been told that second and subsequent Cesarean recoveries are easier, I still worried about having another surgical birth. This time, I would have a two year old at home during recovery. The thought of not being able to hold him broke my heart. That, and our new home had A LOT of stairs. Stairs + C-section recovery = no fun.
Early in my second pregnancy, my new OB mentioned that I was a candidate for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). V-what? I thought he was referring to some new vacuum cleaner. I left his office determined to learn everything that I could about VBACs.
It took several weeks to research VBACs, compare the risks of VBAC vs. CBAC (Cesarean Birth After Cesarean), and process the information. Once I made the decision to proceed with a VBAC, I got busy preparing my mind and body for the big day. I’m a realist, so I also prepared myself for anything else that might arise during pregnancy and birth that might challenge my VBAC plans.
The more that I learned and prepared, the more confident I became in my body’s ability to birth.
Keep in mind that all of these suggestions can be applied to any vaginal birth.
1. ‘NETFLIX & CHILL' WITH THE DOCUMENTARY, The Business of Being Born.
Okay, it's on Netflix, but you get my point.
This suggestion applies to everyone, no matter what kind of birth you’re planning.
The natural birth process portrayed in the film might not resonate with you, and that’s okay. The information and facts presented are shocking. It will change your perspective on birth in the United States.
2. FIND A SUPPORTIVE PROVIDER.
I can’t stress the importance of having a provider that supports your ideal birth enough. Your provider should encourage you, believe in you and support you.
This might mean that it’s time to look for a new provider. If you have been going to the same OB for years, this can understandably be uncomfortable. Here’s the thing… would you continue going back to the same hairdresser that never does what you want with your hair? Probably not.
Here are a few questions to consider (more here):
Are they comfortable working with a doula?
Do they appear to be patient and a good listener?
Does the provider appear to trust the woman’s body?
What is their success rate with VBACs?
If their answers raise any red flags, it is possible to switch providers late in your pregnancy.
It’s your birth and you need someone that is 100% on your team.
There is a difference between VBAC tolerant and VBAC friendly providers.
3. POSITIVE VIBES ONLY.
Surround yourself with positive birth stories, specifically positive VBAC birth stories.
You can start with my birth story (coming soon).
The Birth Hour podcast is full of positive birth stories. You can listen in the car, while out on a walk, or while cooking dinner. This will begin to replace the old negative stories in your mind with positive, uplifting and encouraging beliefs.
Join the private online community (FREE) for more positive vibes and support along your journey.
4. CONSIDER HIRING A DOULA.
"A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible." (DONA)
To learn more about the benefits of having continuous support during labor, check out why the World Health Organization is on board (here).
Among other things, a doula should empower you to advocate for yourself during pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Begin with a search for doulas in your local area. Then, have phone and/or in person consultations to find a good match for you.
Keep in mind that most insurance plans do not pay for doulas, so this is typically an out of pocket expense. If that presents an issue, here are a few options:
You may be able to find a local doula in training that is willing to either volunteer or provide reduced service fees.
Certain local hospitals have a volunteer doula program.
State / local community organizations that offer volunteer doula programs.
Live Q&A weekly with ME, the Digital Doula, in the private FB group!
5. TAKE A CHILDBIRTH CLASS - KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
Learning about the physiological process of birth will undoubtedly help you to prepare for the big day.
What kind of class should you take? That’s entirely up to your own preferences, schedule, etc. Here are a few things to consider:
Basic classes at your local hospital will vary in quality. Some are fantastic…. Others are more to explain hospital protocols (which, btw, you might opt out of in your birth plan).
Consider the type of birth you want before registering for a class.
VBAC classes are fantastic - when you can find them. Unfortunately they’re not widely available across the country. The VBAC Education Project is a free online VBAC intro course.
There are several online options as well, some of which have a live component or a Q&A section.
**Have you checked out the free training, 'KNOW YOUR OPTIONS: BIRTH SERIES?'** Replays are available in the private online community.
6. READ “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” (here).
Ina May Gaskin is the Beyonce of midwives!
This book is the holy grail for natural childbirth. Even if natural childbirth isn’t your jam, knowledge of the physiological process of birth is empowering.
7. FIND A WEBSTER CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTOR.
Reduced back pain, hip pain & sciatica
Gets your body in alignment for birth - line that pelvis & uterus up, girl!
Helps your baby get in (& stay in) optimal position for birth
Before beginning any exercise during pregnancy, please be sure to clear with your provider.
Exercise to get fit is one thing. Exercise to prepare your body for birth is another. Here are a few great exercises to get you ready for the big day:
Walk (at least 30 minutes a day)
Squats (Ina May Gaskin suggests 300 per day for a quick delivery)
Cat / Cow stretches - also called pelvic tilts (video demo in the private fb group)
Hip rotations on a birthing ball (video demo in the private fb group)
Bouncing on the birthing ball
Spinning Babies is a great resource for other physical activities to prepare for labor.
9. PREPARE YOUR LADY PARTS.
Yes, there are things that you can do to prepare your uterus, cervix and vagina for birth.
RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA.
Starting in your second trimester, drink one cup of red raspberry leaf tea per day to begin prepping your uterus.
Benefits? Strengthens the uterine muscles and tones the pelvic floor.
Once you reach 36 weeks, you can increase the daily amount. More info here.
Starting at week 36, eat six dates per day.
Benefits? "Consuming six dates per day in the last four weeks of pregnancy… helps with cervical dilation, increases your chance of spontaneous labor, may help you have a shorter first stage of labor and a reduction in induction and augmentation" (NCBI).
Struggling to eat six dates per day? Try Lara bars, Whole Foods date walnut “cake,” or toss a few in a smoothie.
Perine-WHAT? The perineum is the area between your vagina and your rectum.
Perineal massage is manually stretching the perineum to get it ready for birth.
Don’t get it confused with a typical massage - it’s not nearly as relaxing! However, if done daily during the weeks leading up to birth, perineal massage can help the skin begin to loosen and stretch.
Here’s a straightforward demo.
10. LABOR PLANS.
Create a labor playlist. You’ll want to choose songs that calm you.
Download a contraction timing app to track where you are with the 4-1-1 or 5-1-1 guideline that most providers follow.
Labor at home until you’ve reached the 4-1-1 guideline, at least, unless there is a medical condition requiring you to go to your birthplace earlier. Discuss this with your provider in the weeks leading up to your due date.
Have a peanut yoga ball handy. If you plan on getting an epidural, you won’t be able to walk around afterward. Wrapping your legs around a peanut yoga ball will help your pelvis continue to open up. Check with your birthplace to see if they keep these on hand. If not, pack it in your bag.
11. GET YOUR MIND RIGHT.
Have you heard the saying that your thoughts become your reality? Let’s apply that to preparing for your VBAC.
Visualization and meditation may not be evidence based practices in birth; however, these are powerful tools. Spend some time each day of your pregnancy visualizing your ideal birth. Try closing your eyes and replaying the movie of your birth in your head as often as possible.
Tell your baby your ideal birth story while she’s in the womb. Really - talk to her. If it feels strange at first, try again.
Find positive birth affirmations (here are my favorites) that resonate with you. Even better, write your own. Try to focus on using positive statements to describe the birth that you desire.
Your words are powerful. Think about how you describe birth, and try to replace your words (and thoughts) with positive words and phrases. For example, try “planning my VBAC” instead of “hoping for a VBAC.”
It’s important that you keep a realistic perspective on the uncertainty in birth. Complications can arise during pregnancy or labor that may require a C-section. You can prepare your mind for that outcome, too. Allow yourself to process those thoughts and feelings, and then allow them to pass.
Here are a few additional resources that may be helpful in preparing for your VBAC:
Since I’m a sucker for good quotes, I’ll close this ost with my favorite as you prepare for your VBAC.
“Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” - Helen Keller