(Disclaimer : Contact your Ob-Gyn Provider for your specific case and the possibility of a VBAC. The below post should not be considered as medical information. This is an anecdote of personal experience.)
In May of 2018, I had my second baby who was born through VBAC. I wanted to write this blogpost since then, especially because VBAC is such a novel concept in the Keralite society, so much so, I got raised eyebrows look and many comments such as, ‘You had a VBAC with such a short gap between your pregnancies?!’ (My kids were born 2years9months apart. Alhamdulilah)
What is VBAC and why are there so many discussions about it of late?
Vaginal Birth after Csection (VBAC) is exactly as the name states, vaginal birth after having an earlier C-section. Most Ob-Gyn providers agree for an attempt to VBAC if you have a gap of 18 months or more between your pregnancies. (I am going to reiterate throughout this post, to consult with your ObGyn doctor to get the correct information regarding your case) I will link two reference points for you to begin reading about VBAC – one from The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and another article from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, UK.
I do not want to write about my birth story in detail since it is too personal and not fit for the public blog, but if you are interested in talking about my VBAC experiences in detail, contact me. (Email is given in the link)
Instead, I wanted to discuss handy and helpful tips that helped me while preparing for a VBAC.
1.Understanding my WHY – Why do I want this VBAC? What prompted me to take this decision? My elder daughter was only 2 years 9 months then and I really wanted to carry her and take care of her by myself immediately after my delivery. I didn’t want her to feel suddenly left alone. I know we as C-section mothers too can take care of our kids immediately after our surgeries, but this was my reasoning then – it might look silly! 😀 Besides the other reasons of not wanting a major surgery again or keeping the options open for a bigger family, later on, Insha’Allah.
2. Reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – This book is divided into two sections. The first section has all the positive birth stories from women who birthed at The Farm ( The birthing community Ina May established for those who want to have a natural birth). Some of the stories can be too explicit or not to your taste -skip them. Most stories will teach you about the immense power of a woman’s body. The second section is medical information about birth. It is very detailed and gives information about how the body responds naturally to labour, all the interventions given in a hospital setting during birth and the different ways our bodies can respond to this intervention. She also makes it extremely clear that we as a birthing mother can clearly say NO to any intervention if we are not comfortable with it. She gives clear points regarding the differences between a midwifery model of birth and a traditional hospital-based birth led by Doctors. This is a great book if you want to know in detail about the natural birthing process or to build up your confidence before labour and delivery or to be informed about different options of care during birth and delivery. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any pregnant lady, whether you are a first-time mom, second-time mom etc.
3. Being ‘Informed’ – For my first pregnancy, I had read a lot, but most of my reading was online or via apps. For the second pregnancy, I took a different route – I read from pregnancy & labour books, online medical journals, specific blogs. I read from the experts rather than apps (There is no issue with learning from Apps. Just that second time around, I felt it was more important for me to know about labour process in detail rather knowing the size of my fetus on a particular day of my pregnancy 😀 ) I made myself aware about interventions during birth and it’s risk and benefits. Also about ‘cascade of interventions’.
4. Hypnobirthing – One of my pregnancy reads was – Hypnobirthing: The Breakthrough to Safer, Easier, More Comfortable ChildbirthBook by Marie Mongan. (Kindle Edition) That’s when I got to know about this technique. ‘Hypnobirthing is a birthing method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help a woman feel physically, mentally and spiritually prepared and reduce her awareness of fear, anxiety and pain during childbirth’. – States MayoClinic. Read the book or articles online to know more about the process. Rainbow relaxation techniques helped a lot in relaxing during the entire labour ordeal. Breathing techniques also helped in keeping the edge of the pain away! Find out if there are certified hypnobirthing coaches near your location. There are many online hypnobirthing classes too.
5. Positive Affirmations – They work on the simple mantra that a positive mental attitude reinforced with affirmations help us in achieving the birth that we want for ourselves by reaffirming the inherent power of a women’s body and for me, faith wise, believing and trusting wholeheartedly in The Higher Power of God. I had created positive affirmations cards for me to use during the labouring process. I wanted to remind myself of the Names of Allah and His attributes which would help me during that entire ordeal and to remember the story of Maryam Aleyhi Salam.
6. Positive Support Groups – During my pregnancy period, I was part of two Whatsapp support groups which had mothers with due-dates around the same time. The groups were very helpful to me for the healthy discussions and support given during that vulnerable period. One of the groups was a small, informal one with a bunch of ladies who helped me with their thoughts, banter and jokes during the last few months of my pregnancy. Most importantly, all the positive birth stories shared there helped me in keeping a positive outlook. The mantra of the group was Walk, Squats, Dates. I am still part of the group and it is lovely to see the growth of our 2018 babies.
7. Accepting my fear of pain – I have had intense dysmenorrhea since I was a teen. Month after month. Year after year – the same situation every month – Pain, Nausea, Vomiting, Dizziness, Crying. So naturally, when I got pregnant for the first time, I was very scared of labour pains. By the second time around, I wholeheartedly accepted that I am anxious about PAIN! I mean literal anxiety and Fear! Accepting my fear of pain helped me in learning ways to combat the pain. Only when we are aware of the extend of our limitations, fears and strength can we learn to work around it. (Fun fact: I found my labour pains milder compared to my monthly period pains)
8. Healthy Lifestyle – When I got pregnant for the second time, I was 78kgs. I had not shed my (first) pregnancy weight Due to my weight and family history, I was extremely worried about getting Gestational Diabetes. So I went into ‘Fight Mode’ right from the beginning of my pregnancy. I met a good dietitian at the Health Center who gave me a clean and doable diet guideline which I could adhere to. Hence absolutely no sugar for the entire 9 months (Fun fact– I was averse to sweet taste during the entire 9 months of pregnancy so I could not tolerate sugar even if I wanted to eat something sweet) I walked 6000steps every day of my pregnancy for the entire 9 months – summer or winter – I did it throughout. I was mindful of what I ate. In the end, I gained only 7kgs which was absolutely fine for my case since I was already overweight. I had no Gestational Diabetes for both my pregnancies – though I am at risk for it. (Your exercise intensity, diet and weight gain should be discussed with your Ob-Gyn Provider and should not be compared to mine. My experiences are based on my height, weight, exercise history and family history)
9. Choosing the right hospital – I chose the Public Hospital here in Qatar since I absolutely trust their healthcare system. They are pro-natural birth and has excellent facilities for both mother and baby in case my attempt for VBAC turns to an emergency situation. I had both my babies here in Qatar, in hospitals under HMC and frankly, I would not have had it any other way! While choosing a hospital, find a doctor who supports VBAC and a hospital which has all the facilities for both newborn baby and mother in case they are needed. One con to the public health care system here, husbands are not allowed inside the labour rooms to be with their wives – I so wish they change this rule. (You can have a female birthing partner with you) (Fun fact: I was shifted to the ward from the labour room due to a stalled labour which was actually a blessing in disguise! My husband and daughter could be with me the whole day, along with my mother. I loved having them with me) I had also created an elaborate birth plan for myself but I could not keep it with me or talk about it to my doctor beforehand(my baby came a week early) For the most part, most of my birthing wishes were respected except for an episiotomy which was done though I do not know why it was done. (Fun fact: In Qatar, if you are a citizen or a resident with QID, both vaginal delivery and C-Section are free of charge. You pay only for the room. Ie Qar 100/day (nearly 27 $ only) The medications given too are subsidized and hardly cost 1 or 2 riyals as the case may be)
10. ‘Informed’ spouses – Read and educate yourselves together, go for couple classes or discuss with him regarding everything that you wish to have during your birthing process. Having your spouse wholeheartedly support you regarding everything that you want wrt to the birth will give a sense of confidence on days you are low and help in calming the frayed nerves.
These are my tips while preparing for a VBAC. My advice, if you are trying for a VBAC, would be read, read, read and educate yourself. There are a few Facebook groups which helped me during my journey such as
(Disclaimer: Use Facebook groups and other online forums to read about personal experiences and not as medical information. Please contact your ObGYn Provider for information related to your case. Do not consider strangers on online forums in the place of a licensed registered doctor!)
I hope my post gave you a brief outline about VBAC and has helped you in educating yourself more. Good wishes and God bless.
(Other posts on Pregnancy and Childbirth)