Women and their obstetricians should consider vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (VBAC) if their maternal care center can handle emergency deliveries, according to an updated practice bulletin from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Trial of labor after cesarean delivery (TOLAC) results in a successful birth in 60%-80% of cases, sparing mothers from major abdominal surgery and reducing the risk of hemorrhage, thromboses, and infection, the authors of the practice bulletin wrote. “The preponderance of evidence suggests that most women with one previous cesarean delivery with a low-transverse incision are candidates for and should be counseled about and offered TOLAC,” they said (Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Nov;130[5]:e217-33. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002398).

Rates of cesarean delivery in the United States jumped from 5% to nearly 32% between 1970 and 2016. Although rates of VBAC rose between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, cases of uterine rupture and other complications spurred fears of malpractice litigation and reversed this trend. VBAC rates were more than 28% in 1996 but fell to 8.5% by 2006, according to the practice bulletin.

To reduce the risk of uterine rupture, avoid misoprostol for cervical ripening and labor induction in women with a prior cesarean delivery, ACOG recommended.

“No evidence suggests that epidural analgesia is a causal risk factor for unsuccessful TOLAC,” the authors added. “Therefore, epidural analgesia for labor may be used as part of TOLAC, and adequate pain relief may encourage more women to choose TOLAC.”

Women with two prior low-transverse cesareans also are potential candidates for TOLAC, depending on other predictors of successful VBAC. Factors that reduce the chances of a successful TOLAC include advanced maternal age, high body mass index, high birth weight, gestational age of more than 40 weeks at delivery, and preeclampsia at the time of delivery, according to the practice bulletin.

To reduce the risk of adverse outcomes of complications, TOLAC should not occur at home and should only occur at level I facilities (or higher) that can perform an emergency cesarean delivery if the mother or fetus is in jeopardy.

The practice bulletin recommends continuous fetal heart rate monitoring during TOLAC and notes several additional categories of TOLAC candidates. Obstetricians and patients should discuss the potential risks and benefits of both TOLAC and elective repeat cesarean delivery, and that discussion should be documented in the medical record, ACOG recommended.