Making decisions about birth after caesarean

Views on information from other sources

Women who become pregnant again after a previous caesarean have specific information needs. How much information women feel they need is a matter of personal preference, but usually they want to find out how having had a caesarean previously might affect their next pregnancy and birth. (See 'Information needs and attitudes in next pregnancy' and 'Views on information from health professionals')

The women we talked to in this study took part in a clinical trial that tested two computer-based decision aids (see 'About the interviews and the DiAMOND trial'). Both decision aids provided detailed information about a broad range of complications associated with different ways of giving birth after caesarean. All but two of the women used one version of the decision aid or the other. We asked women whether they had used any other sources of information beside the decision aids and information they had received from health professionals.

Some women had gone back to the books they had bought for their previous pregnancy, but typically they had found very little information about birth after caesarean. One woman ordered a book specifically on caesarean, but still found that it could not give her the answers she wanted about her personal chances of having a vaginal birth.

A few women said they enjoyed watching television programmes about women giving birth in different ways. A couple of women who wanted a VBAC said seeing other women doing it on TV had given them confidence that it could was an achievable goal. However, while some thought that TV programmes were a good way to learn about what can happen during a birth they also said it could be difficult to make comparisons to your own situation.

Many women browsed the internet to find out factual information about different birthing methods. Some women who had a strong birth preference from early on in their pregnancy said they had looked up information before appointments with midwives or consultant to be better prepared in case their preference would be challenged in discussion.

A few women said they had gained helpful emotional support from learning about other women's personal experiences through websites or chat-rooms. Others were more critical of these informal sources of information.

Several women said it was difficult to know which sources of web-based information could be trusted. A few women had dealt with this challenge by restricting their internet searching to the websites of reputable medical organisations. Information from such websites was thought to be more balanced and trustworthy than information provided by commercial baby websites. However, one woman said it could be difficult to make sense of information on there. Other women preferred the commercial websites, because they had more material on women's own experiences.

A couple of women thought it was better to rely on information from health professionals than try and find out things for yourself. (See 'Information needs & attitudes in next pregnancy' and 'Views on information from health professionals'.)

Some women found it very helpful to talk to other women who had had the experience of another birth after caesarean. However, not all women knew others with similar experiences. One young woman said she was the only one among her friends who had had a caesarean. Women who wanted to attempt vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) thought it would be useful to hear from others who had been through it. A few women also said they would trust other women more than they would trust information from health professionals.

However, others thought it was best not to be too influenced by the birth stories of other women because every pregnancy and birth is different. Some also thought women were more likely to share 'horror stories' than positive experiences. 

(For a selection of web-based resources for women who have had a previous caesarean, see the 'Resources' section).

Last reviewed April 2015.

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