Pregnant women hoping to avoid another Caesarean section have fewer options.
Naomi Stenson-Mick didn’t think she would be able to have a second child after a complicated Caesarean section with her first birth. But a doctor at Hudson Hospital in Wisconsin told her she could go ahead with her second pregnancy and plan for a vaginal birth after her C-section, known as a VBAC.
With only four weeks left of her pregnancy, Hudson Hospital announced it would be banning VBAC deliveries after Aug. 31, leaving Stenson-Mick worried that she may not make the cutoff date.
“We have no other options for a VBAC anywhere,” Stenson-Mick said about mothers like her with previous Caesarean complications. “I would have to say ‘cut me open’ if I didn’t have this option.”
Hudson Hospital administration announced its decision last week, saying that while it supports VBAC deliveries as an option for women, it cannot at this time provide the service due to “human resource constraints.” Mothers with due dates beginning in September will have to either find a new care provider or consent to another Caesarean section with their same doctor.
Dozens of pregnant women and members of the local chapter of the International Caesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) organized a protest Monday outside the hospital in response to the decision.
Pregnant women have viewed Hudson Hospital as a leader for VBAC deliveries, due to its accepting policy and high success rates of VBAC deliveries ending in natural childbirth, ICAN member Katie Champ said. Mothers have often driven from around the state just to be treated there. Hudson was one of the only places that would allow VBACs after the 42-week gestational mark, Stenson-Mick said.
“By taking this away, they’re just not using their staff at their fullest potential,” Champ said. “I feel like it’s such a waste.”
Attempting a VBAC is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had one or two prior Caesarean deliveries, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Laura Dean, an ACOG fellow and chair of the Department of Ob/Gyn at Stillwater Medical Group, said that some Minnesota hospitals have suspended VBAC deliveries because of the resources required to meet the “immediate availability” of anesthesia recommended — but not mandated — by ACOG.
“I am not aware of what factors caused them to make a change in their current policy, but certainly stresses of being able to provide readily available care — anesthesia or obstetric — is what’s been a factor in many other hospitals,” Dean said.
According to a 2008 survey conducted by ICAN, 39 of 101 hospitals with labor and delivery services in Minnesota prohibit VBACs. These are primarily in rural areas, where resources might be more limited.
Because Stenson-Mick might not make its Aug. 31 cutoff, Hudson Hospital has offered to allow her to continue with her VBAC plan with her original doctor at River Falls Area Hospital, about a 25-minute drive from St. Paul — a godsend for the expectant mother, who wanted to avoid another Caesarean section at all costs.
“I want to be able to go home and pick up my younger daughter afterward, which you can’t do after a major abdominal surgery,” Stenson-Mick said.
“It’s been an emotional and painful last couple of weeks.”
Samantha Schmidt • 612-673-4641