Monday, February 4, 2008

Twisting in the Wind....

If you happen to think that using a Birth Center for your VBAC is a good option, you might have to reconsider. This was just released. An important note -- the original study (Nov. 2004) concluded that VBAC resulted in a significantly higher rate of adverse outcomes but they drew that conclusion by including poor outcomes that had nothing to do with the VBAC status of the laboring woman (much like the Hannah Breech Trial did, to kill off vaginal breech delivery). This is part of the reason there was a push to "redo" the study, because the conclusions drawn were so fishy.


The Board of Directors of the American Association of Birth Centers has issued a statement regarding the feasibility of another AABC VBAC Study.

After long and extensive review of the feasibility of the American Association of Birth Centers conducting another study on VBAC in birth centers, the AABC Board of Directors has determined it is not possible for the Association conduct such a study at this time and will instead continue to advocate to policymakers for access to VBAC. The AABC Board has struggled for some time with how this small organization can respond to the very large VBAC issue. "It is hard to say that we are not going to do a VBAC study from an emotional point of view, but practically we need to." says AABC President Cynthia Flynn, CNM, PhD.
For some this may seem like an abrupt change and the Board has anguished over this decision for months now. Here is a brief history of how arrived at this decision. . .

AABC conducted the National Study of Vaginal Birth After Cesarean in Birth Centers over a ten year period and the study was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology (November 2004). The study authors concluded, "Despite a high rate of vaginal births and few uterine ruptures among women attempting VBACs in birth centers, a cesarean-scarred uterus was associated with increases in complications that require hospital management. Therefore, birth centers should refer women who have undergone previous cesarean deliveries to hospitals for delivery. Hospitals should increase access to in-hospital care provided by midwife/obstetrician teams during VBACs."

In response to this study the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC) advised that CABC accredited birth centers may not do VBACs in the birth center unless they are participating in a national research study, with strict inclusion criteria, on VBACs.

The idea for another AABC VBAC study was presented and first discussed at the AABC Board Meeting in April 2005 (and most meetings since). At the AABC Annual Meeting in September 2006, we announced that we were going to do a VBAC study.

The following month ACOG published a new statement of policy on "Out-of-Hospital Birth in the United States" which had the potential to have a tremendously adverse effect on birth centers in America. The statement was not based on the evidence, and AABC advocated for ACOG to reconsider their statement based on the evidence. The AABC Board decided wait for the dust to settle before proceeding with a VBAC Study.

In February of 2006 we conducted a survey of birth centers to gauge how many centers would participate and how long it would take to generate a sample size that would yield reliable data. We determined that it could take up to 15 years. This was evidence of how much the climate about VBAC's had changed since the initial VBAC study was conducted.

We proposed the idea of including the VBAC study as a subset of the National Study of Optimal Birth that we were launching. We added the necessary fields for VBAC research to the AABC Uniform Data Set (UDS). At the AABC Birth Institute in October 2007 we solicited birth centers to participate in these studies.

After the conference, we sought consultation from respected researchers on the advisability of AABC conducting another VBAC study. Everyone we consulted told us not to do it. These consultants were all experienced researchers who have consistently demonstrated strong support for and a good understanding of birth centers over many years. It seemed clear that, while they were also sensitive to the growing limits of access of women to VBAC's, they also were clear about what was in thebest interests of AABC. And clear about the importance of AABC remaining a credible resource for normal birth. We could not determine how to design a VBAC study that meets Independent Review Board (IRB) criteria for informed consent, that is statistically sound, and that wouldn't be political suicide for such a small group.

Many Board members practicing in birth centers felt conflicted about their desire to provide access to care for VBAC women in their birth centers and the risks for the Association in undertaking such a study at this time. There is a health care crisis in America and midwives and birth centers have an important role to play in structuring solutions. As an association AABC must focus its strategic capital on our mission: the promotion of the rights of healthy women and their families, in all communities, to birth their children in an environment which is safe, sensitive and economical with minimal intervention.

Whether or not to do VBACs in your birth center is a decision for individual providers. The AABC Standards for Birth Centers state that birth centers are appropriate for low-risk women. The National Study of VBACs in Birth Centers found that VBAC is not low-risk, although it is not defined as high risk either. All of the research on birth centers demonstrating our quality, safety and cost-effectiveness has been on low-risk women.

The ability of your birth center do VBACs depends on several variables:

Your state regulations for birth centers.
The risk criteria you have developed in consultation with your collaborating physician.
Your timely access to acute care that will be prepared for emergency transfer.
Your willingness to take on the potentially increased liability of doing VBACs in light of the current research.
Your willingness to put at risk access to birth center care for all women if there is a bad VBAC outcome.
A birth center's decision to do VBACs does not preclude them from membership in the American Association of Birth Centers.

AABC will continue to advocate for access to care for VBAC women. We have developed the AABC Uniform Data Set, an online data registry, which will be used in collecting data for the American Association of Birth Centers' new research project "The National Study of Optimal Birth". The instrument for the study, in development over the past ten years, is designed to uniformly collect comprehensive data on both the process and outcomes of the midwifery model of care - including VBACs. It is anticipated that a large set of prospective data collected simultaneously from all providers in all settings - hospital, birth center and home will make an important contribution to our ability to evaluate and improve the delivery of care to childbearing women and families. We invite you to enroll your birth center or practice in this study.


Kate E. Bauer, Executive Director
American Association of Birth Centers
3123 Gottschall Road - Perkiomenville, PA 18074
Tel (215) 234-8068 - Fax (215) 234-8829


A few things strike me -- So VBAC isn't low risk but it isn't high risk either. But it certainly isn't "normal" because AABC feels it is necessary to leave the VBAC women out in the cold to preserve Birth Centers for "normal birth". I don't know, both my VBACs felt pretty damn normal to me. I particularly like the way they re-emphasize that in the several variables they list...."Your willingness to put at risk access to birth center care for all women if there is a bad VBAC outcome." really doesn't pull any punches does it?

As a good friend of mine said: "We were marginalized just as the Birth centers have been marginalized and rather than sticking with those of us who have supported them, we're being left out to be picked off. I hope they know they are next..they are on the AMA hitlist, too." If you don't know what she's referring to, see here. If we don't hang together....

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