Vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC): exploring women's perceptions


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Abstract

Aims and objectivesThis study was designed to complement local audit data by examining the lived experience of women who elected to attempt a vaginal birth following a previous caesarean delivery. The study sought to determine whether or not women were able to exercise informed choice and to explore how they made decisions about the method of delivery and how they interpreted their experiences following the birth.BackgroundThe rising operative birth rate in the UK concerns both obstetricians and midwives. Although the popular press has characterized birth by caesarean section as the socialites' choice, in reality, maternal choice is only one factor in determining the method of birth. However, in considering the next delivery following a caesarean section, maternal choice may be a significant indicator. While accepted current UK practice favours vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) in line with the research evidence indicating reduced maternal morbidity, lower costs and satisfactory neonatal outcomes, Lavender et al. point out that partnership in choice has emerged as a key factor in the decision-making process over the past few decades. Chaung and Jenders explored the issue of choice in an earlier study and concluded that the best method of subsequent delivery, following a caesarean birth, is dependent on a woman's preference.Design and methodologyUsing a phenomenological approach enabled a holistic exploration of women's lived experiences of vaginal birth after the caesarean section.ResultsThis was a qualitative study and, as such, the findings are not transferable to women in general. However, the results confirmed the importance of informed choice and raised some interesting issues meriting the further exploration.ConclusionsInformed choice is the key to effective women-centred care. Women must have access to non-biased evidence-based information in order to engage in a collaborative partnership of equals with midwives and obstetricians.Relevance to clinical practiceThis study is relevant to clinical practice as it highlights the importance of informed choice and reminds practitioners that, for women, psycho-social implications may supersede their physical concerns about birth.

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