Are There Known Risks Associated With Vaginal Birth After Caesarean?

Almost 30% of first-time mothers in Canada end up giving birth by cesarean sectionIf you are one of the many women who have previously had a casarean section,

for subsequent deliveries, you should be given the option of planning for a vaginal birth after cesarean (sometimes referred to as VBAC) or planning to have another cesarean section.

There are risks and benefits associated with both options. It is the responsibility of your doctor or midwife to advise you of the risks as they relate to your particular situation. If your health care practitioner fails to advise you of the risks or fails to properly assess you for risk factors, and you or your baby are injured as a result, you may have a legal claim for medical malpractice.

Vaginal birth after cesarean is generally considered unsafe. Because you have a scar on your uterus from your previous surgery, there is a chance that your uterus will rupture during labour. A ruptured uterus is an emergency situation, which will require immediate surgery to remove the baby and, if possible, repair the damage to the uterus. If the damage to the uterus cannot be repaired, the uterus will be removed. This is known as a hysterectomy.

Any delay in receiving surgery after a uterine rupture may result in serious injury or death to the mother and baby. If the baby is without oxygen for any significant period of time, this can lead to brain damage, cerebral palsy, or death. 

A planned cesarean section is generally considered safer for both mother and baby than an emergency cesarean section. By planning a cesarean section, you also significantly reduce your risk of suffering a uterine rupture. However, there are some risks associated with all cesarean sections, planned or not.

Cesarean sections result in longer hospital stays and longer recovery times for the mother. They also increase the chance of the mother developing an infection, needing an emergency blood transfusion and other surgical complications. 

Certain factors may make you less likely to successfully give birth vaginally after a cesarean section. These factors include:

  • An overdue baby
  • Induced labour
  • Overweight mother.

If any of these factors are present in your case, you may decide to proceed with a planned cesarean section.

Deciding whether to proceed with a vaginal birth after cesarean can be difficult. There are many risks and benefits to weigh. Different women will weigh these factors differently. Your doctor or midwife should be able to help you to make the best and most informed decision for you. If you or your baby is injured during labour or delivery, contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.


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