Birth after caesarean section: Changes over a nine-year period in one Australian state

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2011, 27 (2), pp. 165 - 169
Issue Date:
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Objectives: to describe the outcomes related to birth after a caesarean section (CS) in one Australian state, New South Wales (NSW), over a nine-year period. The objectives were to determine whether changes had occurred in the rates of attempted and successful vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC), induction of labour, place of birth, admission to special care or neonatal intensive care nursery and perinatal mortality. Design and setting: cross-sectional analytic study of hospital births in New South Wales using population-based data from 1998-2006. Participants: women experiencing the next birth after a CS where: the total number of previous CS was 1; the presentation at birth was vertex; it was a singleton pregnancy; and, the estimated gestational age was greater than or equal to 37 weeks. A total of 53,455 women met these criteria. Measurements: data were obtained from NSW Health Department's Midwives Data Collection (MDC). The MDC includes all live births and stillbirths of at least 20 weeks gestation or 400. g birth weight in the state. Findings: over the nine-year period, the rate of vaginal birth after caesarean section declined significantly (31-19%). The proportion of women who 'attempted a vaginal birth' also declined (49-35%). Of those women who laboured, the vaginal birth rate declined from 64% to 53%. Babies whose mothers 'attempted' a VBAC were significantly less likely to require admission to a special care nursery (SCN) or neonatal intensive care (NICU). The perinatal mortality rate in babies whose mothers 'attempted' a VBAC was higher than those babies born after an elective caesarean section although the absolute numbers are very small. Key conclusions: rates of VBAC have declined over this nine-year period. Rates of neonatal mortality and proxy measures of morbidity (admission to a nursery) are generally in the low range for similar settings. Implications for practice: decisions around the next birth after CS are complex. Efforts to keep the first birth normal and support women who have had a CS to have a normal birth need to be made. More research to predict which women are likely to achieve a successful VBAC and the most effective ways to facilitate a VBAC is essential. Midwives have a critical role to play in these endeavours. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
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