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Cultural perspectives on vaginal birth after previous Caesarean section in countries with high and low rates – a hermeneutic study

Journal article
Authors Ingela Lundgren
Sandra Morano
Christina Nilsson
Marlene Sinclair
Cecily Begley
Published in Women and Birth
ISSN 1871-5192
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Language en
Keywords Vaginal birth after previous caesarean section, Hermeneutic, Caesarean section, Culture
Subject categories Nursing, Reproductive health, Reproductive and perinatal care


Background: Caesarean section (CS) rates are increasing worldwide, an increase that is multifactorial and not well understood. There is considerable variation in the rates of vaginal birth after previous Caesarean section (VBAC). Cultural differences could be one explanation of the varying rates. Objective: To interpret cultural perspectives on VBAC. Methods: A hermeneutic approach for analysing findings from four published qualitative studies that were part of the OptiBIRTH study, focusing on clinicians and women’s views of important factors for improving the rate of VBAC. 115 clinicians and 73 women participated in individual interviews and focus group interviews in countries with low rates (Germany, Italy and Ireland) and countries with high rates (Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands), in the original studies. Results: Three themes demonstrated how the culture differs between the high and low VBAC rate countries; from being an obvious first alternative to an issue dependent on many factors; from something included in the ordinary care to something special; and from obstetrician making the final decision to a choice by the woman. The fourth theme, preparing for a new birth by early follow-up and leaving the last birth behind, reflects coherence between the cultures. Discussion: The findings deepen our understanding of why the VBAC rates vary across countries and healthcare settings, and can be used for improving the care for women. Conclusion: In order to improve VBAC rates both maternity care settings and individual professionals need to reflect on their VBAC culture, and make make changes to develop a ‘pro-VBAC culture’.

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