The increased rate of cesarean deliveries nationwide may be partly due to a lack of consumer knowledge. A recent study suggested that women often choose whatever method of child birth their doctor prefers (rather than relying on current research and data). Additionally, women are often unaware of their rights; find them hard to understand; and rarely know how to assert or defend them when their preferred delivery method conflicts with their doctor’s recommendation.
One primary influence in determining routine interventions, regardless of their proven risks and benefits, lies in the perception of birth as a dangerous and life threatening event. This fear of child birth is unfounded, as the risk of dying in child birth in the U.S. is relatively small, of the approximately four million births that occur each year in the U.S. only 500-600 maternal deaths are reported. Furthermore, a Cesarean is not a risk-free alternative to VBAC; both carry risk that must be weighed in the decision of how to deliver once a woman has had one Cesarean. Cesarean section is major surgery and increases the likelihood of many short- and long-term adverse effects for mothers and babies (1). Most mothers are healthy and have good reason to anticipate uncomplicated childbirth.
Consumers and professional must take a proactive approach to educating themselves about the process of physiological birth and the impact interventions can have on a woman’s ability to birth vaginally (15). When a cesarean section is necessary, it can be truly life-saving, but birth is a safe and common process that generally succeeds without complication. For women seeking VBAC knowing your legal rights prior to delivery can help you better advocate for the birth you want. For care providers and other professionals seeking to support women, education is central in preventing unnecessary cesareans and supporting a safe and satisfying birth experience.
NIH Consensus Development Conference:
State-of-the-science statement on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean intended to provide health care providers, patients, and the general public with a responsible assessment of currently available data on vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).