Santa Barbara Families Protest Hospital Ban on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)

Santa Barbara Families Protest Hospital Ban on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)

June 23rd Rally Highlights Plight of Cesarean Mothers

Santa Barbara, CA, June 23, 2008 – Dozens of parents and concerned community members, supported by the Birth Action Coalition and the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), will rally outside Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara on June 23rd at 11a.m. against the hospital's refusal to allow them a natural birth. Women in Santa Barbara County who have previously given birth by cesarean section have been banned since 2003 from choosing a vaginal birth at Cottage Hospital. This policy is part of a growing national trend. The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has documented vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) bans at 280 hospitals nationwide. Rally supporters will gather to raise awareness about the VBAC ban and to request that it be reversed.

The Birth Action Coalition's goal is to "work to create supportive birth environments in the Ventura and Santa Barbara areas."

"Families in our community want better birth options for all women. We are saddened by Cottage Hospital's decision to close the Goleta Valley Birthing Center, which was one of only 40 hospitals in the country to receive the World Health Organization's "Baby Friendly" designation. And for five years now, women with a prior cesarean have been facing a choice between a forced repeat cesarean, or traveling great distances while in labor to give birth at facilities that still allow VBAC," said Jessica Barton, the Santa Barbara coordinator of the Birth Action Coalition.

VBAC is a safe and desirable option for many woman. With a vaginal delivery, most women spend less time in the hospital and are back on their feet more quickly to care for their new baby and older children. For some women, having a baby vaginally is more emotionally satisfying than having a cesarean. Mom can hold her baby sooner, and bonding and breastfeeding often get off to an easier start. Some families wish to avoid the health risks that may be incurred with a cesarean. Last, most doctors recommend that women not have more than two or three cesareans, so for those who want to have more children, VBAC is an important option that can prevent extra scarring on the uterus.

Concerns over liability and the slim chance of a medical complication known as uterine rupture have fueled VBAC bans across the nation, even though VBAC is a safe option and cesarean delivery is not risk-free. According to a 2006 study published by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ACOG "A trial of labor after cesarean seems to be as safe for the mother and infant as planned cesarean delivery, and the hospital stay is shorter." In addition, a cesarean section is major surgery and is subject to the risks of major surgery including hemorrhage, infection, hysterectomy, re-hospitalization, dangerous placental abnormalities in future pregnancies, unexplained stillbirths in future pregnancies and emotional distress.

Potential risks to babies include low birth weight, prematurity, and respiratory problems. Studies also show that babies delivered by cesarean are more likely to suffer from asthma in childhood and adulthood. The recovery from a cesarean is much longer than for a vaginal birth, involving more pain, more difficulty establishing breastfeeding, and a longer hospital stay. Birth advocates recognize that when a cesarean is necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved.

"Patients should be treated according to their individual needs. A blanket ban ignores the fact that the vast majority of women can safely and successfully deliver subsequent babies without going through another major abdominal surgery. If Cottage Hospital can't handle VBAC emergencies, then they can't handle any birth emergency and should get out of the birth business," says Barbara Stratton of ICAN.

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