Support and Encouragement from Nurses Can Help Mothers Achieve Their VBAC

27 Mar

Nurses play a significant role in helping women complete their VBAC labors. Women laboring for a VBAC may have more anxiety than women having first babies, and may need extra support. They are grateful for all the encouragement, validation, and labor progress suggestions that nurses can provide. Many times, mothers have said, “My nurse was wonderful. Just when I wanted to quit and ask for another cesarean, she told me things were going just as they should be. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Friendly female nurse comforting worried pregnant woman who is having a contraction

The following is a list of suggestions to help nurses support women laboring for a VBAC:

  • During labor, while collaborating with her caregiver avoid formally admitting mothers to the L & D unit until they have a strong active labor pattern.
  • Encourage mothers to continue taking in clear liquids and light carbohydrate snacks in the early phase of labor and liquids in the active phase.
  • Support physiologic birth. Remind mothers to use a variety of positions and ambulate during labor as long as they are comfortable.
  • Suggest that the mother and her partner use a variety of comfort measures, such as heat or cold packs, lunging motions, a birth ball, a rocking chair, or hydrotherapy.

Psychological interventions

  • When meeting the mother for the first time, find out how she wants to labor this time. How does her partner or family feel about a VBAC? What concerns does she have? Why did she have a cesarean? Teach her how she can do things differently this time. Verbal support and encouragement are extremely helpful, especially when nurses help to identify signs of labor progress. Remind parents that 3 out of 4 women who labor for a VBAC have a safe birth. Help her to create the birth environment she prefers (low lighting, quiet, music, no visitors). Smiling nurse talking to pregnant woman lying on bed in the hosp
  • When laboring for a VBAC, some mothers may have anxious moments and flashbacks to their prior birth. Distressing memories of fetal distress or of laboring “for ever” and not getting anywhere. Help mothers to overcome these difficult moments and remind them that this is a different labor for a different baby and that they are strong enough to move through it. Most nurses know when a mother has gone as far as she can and that she needs to adjust to the idea of having a cesarean birth.
  • Give her time to think about what she would like for this birth. Does she want the baby skin-to-skin after birth? Does she want her partner to go with the baby to the nursery if it becomes necessary or stay by her side? Does she want her family to visit her in recovery? Involving mothers in their care and honoring their wishes will go a long way to help them adjust to the loss of the birth they may have planned for and anticipated for months.
  • Many mothers have said that they were left alone after the birth while their partner went with the baby to the nursery (when medically necessary). If a mother does not have a doula and if you can provide one-on-one care for this period of time and talk to the mother about how she is feeling, or how the baby might be doing, she is more likely not to feel abandoned.
  • Mothers, just like their newborns, need to adjust to their new life. Your support, guidance, and compassion will give mothers and babies their best start together.

To find out more about laboring for a VBAC download the VBAC Education Project

The VBAC Education Project






Resolving Emotional Issues About Your Cesarean Birth

12 Mar

Some mothers recover quickly after a cesarean. They resolve and integrate their birth experience as one step towards becoming a mother. Some mothers who have had an unexpected cesarean after a long and painful labor may experience disappointment, loss, sadness, grief, guilt or anger. Often the emotional impact of a cesarean is misunderstood, dismissed, or overlooked. Sometimes mothers have unresolved issues about their cesarean. It is normal to experience a combination of positive and negative emotions.

concept for love, family, and harmony. mother hugging baby tenderly in monochrome

When you are ready, it is important to take the time to process your feelings about your cesarean before you give birth again.

  • Find the right time.
  • Find a safe place.
  • Find someone you trust.
  • Begin to share your cesarean experience.
  • What are the positive things you can think of?
  • Think about what you would like to have done differently.
  • Think about what you need to feel empowered and ready to labor for a VBAC.
  • Talk to your partner about how you feel.
  • Share your experience with other mothers who are likely to understand.
  • Reach out to a cesarean/VBAC support group.
  • Write or draw your feelings in a journal.
  • Hold your baby in your arms and share the positive feelings of your birth experience.
  • Gather as much information as you need to help you understand your cesarean and how to make the changes that you want for your next birth.

For more information about emotional issues after a cesarean download Module 8 of Deciding If VBAC Is Right for You. 




Postpartum Support International

The Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide

Solace for Mothers

Birth Trauma Association, U.K.

Vancouver Birth Trauma

Trauma and Birth Stress, New Zealand

What Are the Odds of My Having a VBAC?

21 Feb

Although three out of four mothers overall who labor after a prior cesarean are likely to have a VBAC, planning ahead, having a supportive caregiver and patient and encouraging nursing care can make all the difference.

Here are some suggestions that may be helpful to you if you are planning a hospital birth: 1_Page_01

Before Labor Begins

  • Think about your VBAC as any other normal labor and remember that the majority of women who plan a VBAC give birth naturally.
  • If you have never labored before or labored and had your cesarean before active labor, the pattern of your labor will most likely be like laboring for the first time. So you will need more time to complete labor.
  • Make sure that you have discussed all of your concerns with your partner, caregiver, and your doula.
  • Find out if your hospital has an “early labor” lounge where you can be observed but not formally admitted to the labor and delivery unit. This will avoid your chances of having routine procedures and limiting your ability to walk and move around in the early part of labor.
  • Avoid an induction of labor unless it’s medically necessary. […]

For Fathers, Providing Support for a VBAC Can Be Challenging

6 Feb

A cesarean can be emotionally difficult or traumatic for fathers/partners. After a long and difficult birth that ended with a cesarean, partners may feel that a repeat cesarean would be safer than planning a VBAC. Some partners may not be sure they can meet the challenge of another possibly long birth.

Father holding newborn baby over black background

Each partner is different and needs to prepare in his or her own way for the coming birth. Partners should take the time to talk about the prior cesarean and define for themselves how they can best support their partners for a VBAC.

  • What advantages do you see for your partner, yourself, and your family if you plan a VBAC?
  • What are the disadvantages?
  • What issues do both of you agree and disagree on?
  • Can you think of ways of working through these issues?
  • Have you thought about accompanying your partner to a prenatal appointment?
  • Would you consider going with her to a VBAC support group?
  • Supporting a woman in childbirth is hard work. Are you worried you won’t be able to give her what she needs?
  • How do you feel about advocating for your partner during labor?
  • Have you thought about having a doula that can guide and support you both during labor and birth?
  • What information or resources do you need to make you feel comfortable about planning a VBAC?
  • You feel strongly that a scheduled repeat cesarean is the safest and easiest way to have this baby. Can you understand why your partner feels strongly about planning a VBAC?

An unexpected cesarean can be emotionally difficult for both mothers and fathers. Providing support for a mother who is planning a VBAC can be challenging. As couples think about their next birth,  fathers/partners should take the time to share their feelings, their concerns, and their differences so that they can provide the best support they can in pregnancy and birth.

For additional resources on planning a VBAC, download, Deciding if VBAC Is Right For You: A Parents Guide from the VBAC Education Project  VBAC Handouts For Parents