5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had a C-Section (and Later a VBAC)
This post was guest written by Meagan Heaton, certified doula and founder of The VBAC Link.
In 2011, about one in three women gave birth in the United States via cesarean section. I was 100% sure I wouldn’t be one of them. And then, there I was, lying on the cold hospital bed, arms outstretched to either side and strapped down. I could see nothing but a blue drape inches away from my face shielding any view of my baby entering this world. It was not what I had envisioned for my birth at all.
Let’s be clear: C-sections save lives and they’re right for some families, but it wasn’t the experience I wanted. And the prevalence of c-sections (over 32% of births today are c-sections) calls into question whether they’re being overused. After having a c-section, so many people wonder what their options are for their next birth. Do they just have to schedule c-sections for all future births? (No!)
To help parents achieve a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery and to help first-time moms avoid c-sections (and that lonely experience I had), I started The VBAC Link, the #1 community, podcast, and resource for mamas preparing for their VBACs and the doulas supporting them. Since founding the company, we have helped hundreds of thousands welcome their babies in an empowered way, whether they chose to have another c-section or had a vaginal birth. Based on my work, here are my top tips for achieving the birth you desire.
1. Hire a doula.
There are so many pros to hiring a doula that I never knew until I became one. For example, studies show doulas can decrease the chances of having a cesarean birth by 39%, lower your chances of having a negative birth experience by 34%, and shorten labor by 41 minutes—just to name a few benefits! While hiring a doula may not be in the cards for everyone, I highly encourage it if your family can swing it. To make your search easier, take a look at our directory of doulas.
2. Hire a low-intervention/low c-section provider.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I automatically went to the provider that my mom went to and who I had seen for my yearly exams. I figured he would be great since everyone else in my family went to him. While I don’t believe that he is a bad provider, after giving birth with him twice and having two unnecessary c-sections, I started to question if he was the right provider for me. As I searched for a new provider for my "vaginal birth after two c-sections” babe, I prioritized finding a provider who was better able to support me in the way I needed to be supported and who was committed to evidence-based care. Both OB/GYNs and midwives are fantastic options for birth. I encourage you to interview a few and find who you feel most confident and comfortable with. Don’t hesitate to ask your provider what their cesarean section rate is (it’s so hard for some reason!). Having an open dialogue with your provider will ensure you welcome your baby into the world the way you want to.
3. Stay active and eat healthy.
Studies have shown that eating a well-balanced diet and staying active during pregnancy is linked to shorter labors and better outcomes. During my first pregnancy, I used to say, “I’m eating for two,” and “I’m tired; I just need to kick my feet up,” but knowing everything I know now, I wish I’d had a different mindset. Based on my studies with Spinning Babies, I recommend my clients walk (or run earlier in the pregnancy) 3 miles per day (that’s about 6,000 to 7,000 steps) at least four to five times per week. Similarly, ACOG suggests 150 minutes of some type of physical activity a week. Always be sure to discuss with your provider what type of physical activity is best for you and your pregnancy.
4. Educate yourself (knowledge is power!).
Education is so important. There are so many things that happened during my birth that felt outside my control—but in reality, I simply hadn’t been educated about all my options. I now realize I could have requested much more prior to being wheeled down to the operating room. Taking a childbirth education course of your choice is key, so you can understand what is happening to your body during all stages of labor and birth, as well as what options you have along the way. It will also help you decide what you would like your birth to look like.
5. Prepare mentally.
Even with all of the education in your pocket, it is still important to prepare mentally for your birth. Really deciding what is most important to you and preparing your mind for labor and birth can help you feel ready whenever your little one decides to have a birthday. Learning breathing techniques, positions that can help you cope, and what counter pressures you like and dislike can go a long way to get you in the right headspace for birth. There are also other tools that you can pack in your hospital bag, like a comb (grip it with its teeth pressing into your palm to distract from pain), an affirmation banner, an IV cover, your own gown to labor in, or a labor playlist. Creating a positive space can help you mentally cope during labor. If you have any stress or fears leading up to birth, make sure to communicate them with your birthing team, too. Helping them understand where you are will help them support you and keep you in a positive mindset.
Preparing for birth can seem daunting. There are so many different options out there—from where you give birth (in or out of the hospital) to how you give birth (do you go with or without an epidural; try for spontaneous labor or induce?). Then there are options around your support team (do you use an OB/GYN or a midwife?). How do you even choose? I am a firm believer that your intuition is the most powerful tool that you have. There is no “wrong or right” way to birth. What’s most important is that you feel you have a say in what is happening to you and your baby. But hopefully, these five tools can help you along the way and allow you to have the birth outcome you’ve always wanted.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.