In the U.S., somewhere around 90 percent of women who have delivered a baby via cesarean section will continue to have surgery with subsequent births. That's because most doctors and hospitals insist upon it, claiming that the risk to both mother and baby is too great after C-section to attempt a vaginal birth. But across the country, a number of women are fighting this trend and hoping to reclaim their birth experiences.
It's called a VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean, and it's a method of delivery that many women who have had C-sections don't know is available to them. That's because many hospitals have VBAC bans in place that prohibit expectant mothers from giving birth vaginally if they have had a cesarean. Hospitals and some public health officials claim that the risk is too great. There is a 1 in 200 risk of a uterine rupture during a VBAC, and in 10 percent of these cases that rupture could lead to serious consequences for both mom and baby. But major surgery such as a C-section comes with its own risks. And statistics show that expectant moms have a 75 percent chance at having a successful VBAC, while the remaining 25 percent go on to have C-sections.
A new documentary film released this spring, called "Trial of Labor," gives a voice to four women who attempted to give birth via VBAC after their C-section experiences left them feeling as though they had somehow failed at giving birth.
These women are not alone in their feelings about their birth experiences. I know several women who have had babies via C-section yet still talk about their failure to deliver their babies. It is heartbreaking to hear a woman talk about how the experience of delivery via surgery strips away her self-confidence in her body and even in her abilities as a mother — particularly at a time when new moms are are already overwhelmed with emotions and feelings of vulnerability.
In "Trial of Labor" you meet four expectant moms, all of whom have had at least one prior birth via cesarean and all of whom want very much to have a different experience with their next delivery. As the film unfolds, you hear from the women about their previous birth experiences and the lingering feelings of frustration, doubt and guilt that they still feel towards their bodies. You also get an education on the issues involved in attempting a delivery via VBAC. It's no easy task, particularly when many hospitals and birthing centers ban the procedure.
I won't dish out any spoilers except to say that all of the women have beautiful, healthy babies. Which in the end, is all that really matters.
To follow their journeys, check out "Trial of Labor," streaming free online for a limited time.
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