For women who have a caesarean section in their preceding pregnancy, two care policies for birth are considered standard: planned vaginal birth and planned elective repeat caesarean. Currently available information about the benefits and harms of both forms of care are derived from retrospective and prospective cohort studies. There have been no randomised trials, and recognising the deficiencies in the literature, there have been calls for methodologically rigorous studies to assess maternal and infant health outcomes associated with both care policies.
The aims of our study are to assess in women with a previous caesarean birth, who are eligible in the subsequent pregnancy for a vaginal birth, whether a policy of planned vaginal birth after caesarean compared with a policy of planned repeat caesarean affects the risk of serious complications for the woman and her infant.
Design: Multicentred patient preference study and a randomised clinical trial.
Inclusion Criteria: Women with a single prior caesarean presenting in their next pregnancy with a single, live fetus in cephalic presentation, who have reached 37 weeks gestation, and who do not have a contraindication to a planned VBAC.
Trial Entry & Randomisation: Eligible women will be given an information sheet during pregnancy, and will be recruited to the study from 37 weeks gestation after an obstetrician has confirmed eligibility for a planned vaginal birth. Written informed consent will be obtained. Women who consent to the patient preference study will be allocated their preference for either planned VBAC or planned, elective repeat caesarean. Women who consent to the randomised trial will be randomly allocated to either the planned vaginal birth after caesarean or planned elective repeat caesarean group.
Treatment Groups: Women in the planned vaginal birth group will await spontaneous onset of labour whilst appropriate. Women in the elective repeat caesarean group will have this scheduled for between 38 and 40 weeks.
Primary Study Outcome: Serious adverse infant outcome (death or serious morbidity).
Sample Size: 2314 women in the patient preference study to show a difference in adverse neonatal outcome from 1.6% to 3.6% (p = 0.05, 80% power).
Clinical Trial Registration