Vaginal Birth After Cesarean

Having a cesarean birth leaves a scar on the wall of the uterus. This area is weaker than the rest of the uterus. Because of this, it was once assumed that a woman should always have a cesarean birth with any future births.

However, a large amount of research clearly shows that vaginal birth is a good option for many women who have previously had a cesarean birth. In most cases, a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (called a VBAC) remains a safe option for both mother and baby. Studies show that 70% to 80% of women who attempt VBAC will be successful at vaginal birth.

VBAC can still be an option after more than one cesarean birth, although the risks are slightly higher. A woman’s medical history or other circumstances may make VBAC a poor choice. In this case, her care provider will recommend a repeat cesarean birth.

If you have had a previous cesarean birth, talk to your care provider about whether you would be a good candidate for VBAC.

You can also download and use our decision aid booklet to get more information and help you decide which choice you prefer. The booklet is available here.

Benefits of VBAC

The benefits of vaginal birth are particularly important for women who already have children at home. With VBAC, you can expect to spend less time in hospital and recover faster than you did with your cesarean birth.

Compared to a cesarean birth, VBAC offers:

  • Less blood loss
  • Less risk of injury and infection
  • No complications associated with surgery
  • A shorter hospital stay
  • A faster, less painful recovery
  • Less risk of breathing difficulties for your baby
  • Reduced risk of complications for future pregnancies

Risks of VBAC

Compared to a planned cesarean birth, the risks of VBAC are:

  • Uterine rupture in labour (tearing of the uterus at the location of your cesarean scar). While the risk of uterine rupture is very small overall, this complication can be life-threatening for both mother and baby. Research has determined that the risk is increased if your babies are born close together: if you give birth vaginally 18 months or sooner after your previous cesarean, your risk of uterine rupture is slightly higher than if you give birth after 18 months.
  • Greater risks associated with having an unplanned cesarean birth, if you are not successful at delivering your baby vaginally for any reason.