Many women who have had a cesarean section to deliver their first baby think they are stuck having a c-section for every subsequent child, but a newly released study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology shows that most women can successfully deliver a second baby vaginally.

Researchers from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine collected data from 143,970 women who had their first baby by cesarean section between 2004 and 2011. They found that only about half of women – 52 percent – attempted natural delivery for a second child after that first c-section. Of the women who did attempt it, 63 percent had a successful vaginal birth after cesarean, known as VBAC among medical professionals.

Cesarean sections soared from 5 percent in 1970 to more than 31 percent in 2007, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Prior to 1970, doctors recommended all women who have c-sections for their first baby have the procedure to deliver the rest of her children. In the 1970s, doctors began describing VBAC as a reasonable option for some women, VBAC rates rose from just over 5 percent in 1985 to 28 percent by 1996 but then sagged to just 8.5 percent by 2006.

Detailed Information about VBAC Success
The authors of the study discovered that younger women under the age of 24 were more likely to choose VBAC. Additionally, they found black and Asian women were more likely to attempt VBAC for their second child, at 62 and 64 percent respectively, than were white women at 49 percent.

VBAC success rates varied among the groups of women who attempted vaginal births for a second baby. Black women had lower success rates at 50 percent as compared with white women at 66 percent. Women older than 34 who attempted VBAC had a 59 percent success rate while 69 percent of younger women aged 24 or less had a successful VBAC.

The scientists noted the cause behind the first cesarean section greatly determined the likelihood of a successful vaginal delivery. Additionally, women in the study who failed to respond when the obstetrician attempted to induce labor were twice as likely to have a failed VBAC attempt.


  1. Knight HE, Gurol-Urganci I, et al. Almost two-thirds of women who attempt a natural delivery after having a c-section are successful. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 20 Nov 2013. Wiley. Web, 3 Dec 2013.
  2. Ob Gyns Issue Less Restrictive VBAC Guidelines. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 21 Jul 2010. Web. 3 Dec 2013.