VBAC Casper Continues Push, Gains Local and National Support

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Casper, WY -- VBAC Casper, a group dedicated to changing Wyoming Medical Center's policy which discourages vaginal births after a C-section, turned one year old in April. The group says updated guidelines by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) show VBACs are more often than not a safer option for moms than undergoing an invasive surgery.

We first reported the story in January, and the New York Times picked up the story recently. A national advocacy organization, ImprovingBirth.org, is now helping the group out, and at this point, more than seven hundred people have signed the petition, urging the hospital to reconsider.

Mandie Parrill wanted to try a vaginal birth after her second daughter's emergency C-section, but she wasn't given many options. "Every nurse that I talked to flat-out said that VBAC was not an option at the hospital," Parrill said. A Wyoming Medical Center representative declined an interview, referring us back to the January press release and answering a few questions via email. She says nothing has changed, and pointed out VBACs aren't outright banned. But advocates say the hospital's policies and lack of alternatives end up having essentially the same effect. "It's not favorable, it's not well-regarded," explained Chelse DePaolo-Lara, of VBAC Casper.

In the last three years, there have been a total of eight VBACs at WMC, out of 3255 births. One reason hospital administrators say they discourage it is the risk of uterine rupture, but statistics show it's only slightly riskier to have a VBAC than it is to deliver your first child. "Those risks are very similar! And we aren't making the connection of why any delivering woman would be safe at the Wyoming Medical Center if they can't support a VBAC mom," DePaolo-Lara said.

If you really want it, you can get a VBAC in Casper, but that requires signing a waiver (see document in side bar). And the few women who have delivered that way say they've been denied an epidural, or had to deliver in an operating room. The hospital representative told News 13 WMC doesn't have such a policies. Rather, anesthesiologists and OBGYNs, who aren't hospital employees but are licensed to practice there, exercise independent judgment. (see policy memo in side bar) But that judgment is informed by the environment, says DePaolo-Lara: "anesthesiologists are not going to provide care or service to patients under a VBAC ban, under a policy that says they shouldn't be," she explained.

Parrill wasn't ready to fight the policy, so she was scheduled for a repeat C-section, a much more invasive procedure. Five weeks and two ER trips later, she's still fighting a painful staff infection in her incision. "The choices should be mine as to how I want to deliver my child and to what I want done with my body, and somebody took that option away from me," Parrill said.
"I think [WMC] can do better, and I think we deserve better," DePaolo-Lara said.

Meanwhile some women are resorting to traveling to Cheyenne, Laramie or even Powell, where hospital staff do support VBACs.