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Vaginal birth after Caesarean section: A survey of practice in Australia and New Zealand


Correspondence: Dr Jodie Dodd, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Adelaide, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, South Australia 5006, Australia. Email:


Aims: Women with a single prior Caesarean section (CS) in a subsequent pregnancy will be offered either a planned elective repeat CS or vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC). Recent reports of VBAC have highlighted risks of increased morbidity, including uterine rupture, and adverse infant outcome. A survey of practice was sent to fellows and members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to determine current care for women in a subsequent pregnancy with a single prior CS, and to assess variations by length and type of obstetric practice.

Methods: Questions asked about the safety of VBAC, induction of labour with a uterine scar, and requirements to conduct VBAC and elective repeat CS.

Results: A total of 1641 surveys were distributed, with 1091 (67%) returned, 844 from practicing obstetricians (51% of college membership). Almost all respondents (96%) agreed or strongly agreed that VBAC should be presented as an option to the woman, varying from 90% where the indication for primary CS was breech, 88% for fetal distress, and 55% for failure to progress. Forty percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that VBAC was the safest option for the woman, and associated with fewer risks than CS. In contrast, 44% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that VBAC was the safest option for the infant, and opinions varied as to whether risks of VBAC outweighed those of CS for the infant. Almost two-thirds of practitioners would offer induction of labour to a woman with a prior CS in a subsequent pregnancy, one-third indicating a willingness to use vaginal prostaglandins, and 77% syntocinon. Most respondents preferred to conduct VBAC in a level two or three hospital (86%); required the availability within 30 min of an anaesthetist (81%), a neonatologist (84%), and operating theatre (97%); recommended continuous electronic fetal heart rate monitoring (86%); intravenous access (90%); and routine group and hold (79%) during labour. For an elective repeat CS, most practitioners request routine blood for group and hold (78%), a neonatologist in theatre (77%), the use of an in-dwelling urinary catheter (96%), and the use of intraoperative antibiotics (82%).

Conclusions: Most obstetricians indicated VBAC to be the safest option for the woman, but were less certain about benefits and risks for the infant. The consensus of practice is to present VBAC as an option and induce labour if needed. Vaginal birth after Caesarean is preferred in a level two or three hospital, with an anaesthetist, neonatologist and operating theatre available within 30 min. The use of continuous electronic fetal heart rate monitoring and intravenous access are recommended. In planned CS, a neonatologist in theatre is preferred, and an in-dwelling urinary catheter and intraoperative antibiotics will be used.