An advocate claims that the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) said VBAC after more than one prior cesarean (VBAMC) doesn’t pose an increased risk. A reader contacted me asking if this was correct. It is not. ACOG does not say that because it’s not true.
Having a prior uterine surgery increases the risk of uterine rupture. The relative risk is still low, but it’s there. Other factors can push that risk higher (such as induction.) But sometimes there is no “reason” for a uterine rupture other than a prior cesarean. Uterine rupture stories illustrate that even though the risk is ~ 0.4% (among those with one prior low transverse cesarean in a spontaneously laboring VBAC), that small number impacts real parents & babies.
A VBAC study out of Canada reported, “Absolute rates of severe maternal morbidity and mortality were low but significantly higher after attempted vaginal birth after cesarean delivery compared with elective repeat cesarean delivery.” After reading the abstract, and full text, I could quickly see how this study will be misinterpreted by many, so let me walk you through it.
So what matters more: Our personal experience? Or the conclusions of medical evidence? I suspect that most of my readers would say, the evidence. Hands down. And that is what most people believe… until they experience a bad outcome. That’s when things become more complicated. That single event can override all their knowledge. Everything they believed to be true. Suddenly all those statistics from the research come flying off the page. They are no longer just a number. They are now associated with a face… a baby… a parent.
Women who have had uterine ruptures and lost their babies have endured some of our greatest fears. But they are part of our community as well. When the VBAC Facts Community, a Facebook group, was opened to the public, we welcomed and embraced the parents who joined us after their loss. Often they felt like they were no longer part of the birth community. They didn’t know where they fit in. They felt isolated and yet they wanted to share their story. We had many loss moms as members and many parents who were planning VBACs who wanted to hear their stories.
Internal bleeding from uterine rupture can cause referred pain through the phrenic nerve which can present in the shoulder. Shoulder pain is sometimes not included in lists of uterine rupture symptoms, but I have seen it cited multiple places (see below) and have had conversations with OBs, nurses, and anesthesiologists who have experienced uterine ruptures with shoulder pain. I’m also aware of two cases where the uterine rupture diagnosis was delayed because staff was not familiar with the incidence of referred pain.