One of the things that most irritates me is doctors trying to promote the idea that women "don't wan't" VBAC anymore. That's total nonsense. Many MANY women still want VBACs but their hospitals or doctors won't "let" them. Others are scared out of VBACs by distorted scare tactics from doctors who just don't want to do VBACs.
"The decline in VBACs is driven both by patient preference and by provider preference," says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, medical director of the maternal-fetal-medicine department of Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
But while many obstetricians say fewer patients are requesting VBACs, others counter that the medical profession has been too discouraging of them. Dr. Stuart Fischbein, an ob-gyn whose Camarillo, Calif., hospital won't allow the procedure, is concerned that women are getting "skewed" information about the risks of a VBAC "that leads them down the path that the doctor or hospital wants them to follow, as opposed to medical information that helps them make the best decision."
According to a nationwide survey by Childbirth Connection, a 91-year-old maternal care advocacy group based in New York City, 57% of C-section veterans who gave birth in 2005 were interested in a VBAC but were denied the option of having one.
ICAN's 2009 survey of U.S. Maternity hospitals found that 28% had an outright ban on VBAC, and another 21% had a "de-facto" ban.....meaning that the hospital had no policy against VBAC but no doctors there would attend one. As noted before, this means that about half of all U.S. hospitals basically do not let women choose VBAC.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Even in the hospitals where VBAC is ostensibly "allowed," they are often rare. Doctors either scare women out of them or suddenly find reasons why they "must" schedule a repeat cesarean as they get closer to term.
Doctors scare women out of VBACs by giving them "informed consent" forms that list huge and graphically-detailed risks for VBACs (even though these risks are statistically rare), and a few minor and skimmed-over risks for repeat cesareans (even those these risks are statistically about as common). They are told horror stories by doctors of rare complications, yet not told similar horror stories of similarly common complications with repeat cesareans.
In short, they are not being given fair and balanced informed consent about the benefits and risks of VBACs and repeat cesareans. Are these women really getting true "choice" in deciding about VBACs? Are these women really having truly "elective" cesareans? Hardly.
Other women are told they can "try" for a VBAC but as they get closer and closer to the end of pregnancy, suddenly the doctor comes up with all kinds of rules that they have to meet....the baby has to be under xxx pounds, she has to go into labor before her due date, she has to be well-dilated and the baby "engaged" in her pelvis by 38 weeks, yadda yadda.
Author Henci Goer calls this the "Cinderella VBAC" scenario. (Sure you can go to the ball, dear....you just have to meet this impossible list of tasks and conditions first. And even if you somehow do, we'll still probably pull the rug out from under you at the last minute.)
So even in those hospitals where a doctor "allows" VBACs, many of those women get talked out (or risked out) of them at the last minute. This is yet another tactic in the war on VBACs in this country.....make it look like you support VBAC but pull the old "bait and switch" at the end.
Statistics show that around 70% of women who try for a VBAC end up having one.....but most women are not given a chance to be in that 70%. Either they are outright banned from having the choice, are discouraged out of it with distorted scare tactics, or are subjected to "bait and switch" schemes where they are conveniently pressured into a cesarean at the last moment.
Only about 8% of women with previous cesareans go on to have a VBAC in this country nowadays, down from 28% in 1996.....purely because almost NONE of them are given the choice.....or a realistic chance......to try.
That's how far the VBAC-lash pendulum has swung now.....and the figures for women of size nowadays are even more abysmal.
In the end, this will have major consequences for the long-term health of mothers and babies in this country, as the cesarean rate spirals out of control. As the article noted:
Patients and doctors need to be as aware of the risks of multiple cesareans as they are of those of VBACs....With each repeat cesarean, a mother's risk of heavy bleeding, infection and infertility, among other complications, goes up. Perhaps most alarming, repeat C-sections increase a woman's chances of developing life-threatening placental abnormalities that can cause hemorrhaging during childbirth. The rate of placenta accreta--in which the placenta attaches abnormally to the uterine wall--has increased thirtyfold in the past 30 years. "The problem is only beginning to mushroom," says ACOG's Zelop.
The story is not just that half of all US hospitals do not let women choose VBAC, although that in itself is a pretty darn big story.
The even BIGGER story is that even in those hospitals that "permit" VBAC, very few women are actually getting a realistic chance at one.
The story on women's choices in childbirth is even grimmer than is being presented.