he-vbac23

NO CHOICE: Some hospitals deny the option of vaginal birth after a cesarean. (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)

Cesarean deliveries have risen steeply nationwide over the last 15 years. In some parts of the country, women are denied the option to try for a vaginal birth after cesarean.

An independent panel of women's health experts said recently that more U.S. women should be given the option to have a vaginal birth after cesarean, stating that such births are reasonably safe.

Coming as it does from an advisory panel to the National Institutes of Health, the report is expected to help increase access to vaginal birth after cesarean.


Get developments in medicine, nutrition and fitness delivered to your inbox with our The Health Report newsletter. Sign up »

Nationwide, cesarean deliveries have risen steeply over the last 15 years and, in some parts of the country, women who have previously had a cesarean are denied the option to try for a vaginal birth because of hospital policy or because they can't find a doctor who will agree to the option.

A 2005 survey commissioned by Childbirth Connection, a nonprofit association that works for better obstetrical care, found that 45% of women who had a cesarean section were interested in a vaginal birth for their next pregnancy. But doctors and hospitals have feared the medical and legal risks involved and, of those women, 57% said their request was denied by either the doctor or the hospital.

In California, women can find out how various hospitals deal with childbirth options. The California HealthCare Foundation provides statistics on cesarean delivery and information on whether VBAC is "routinely performed" at hospitals statewide on its website: http://www.calhospitalcompare.org.

shari.roan@latimes.com