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Women were told hospital restricts after-hours VBACs

Hospital officials said the hospital never had such a policy.

Hospital officials said the hospital never had such a policy.

September 09, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - Several mothers who had Caesarean sections in the past, but wanted normal deliveries with subsequent pregnancies, said their doctors had warned them last spring that if they didn't deliver during regular hours, they couldn't have a "vaginal birth after Caesarean," also known as a VBAC, at Washington County Hospital.

Hospital officials said the hospital never had such a policy. And when the moms pressed the issue, they were told they could have VBACs.

"I'm thrilled to death that I was able to have my VBAC," said April Canby of Hedgesville, W.Va., who had a baby girl this summer at Washington County Hospital. "I had a wonderful stay at the hospital. I really didn't want to change - I love the hospital."

There are several reasons for having a VBAC - recovery time for Caesareans is longer, and with each Caesarean, health risks are greater.

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Hospital staff members try to help women determine whether they're candidates for VBACs, said Jody Bishop, administrative director of women's and children's services at the hospital.

"We counsel a patient to have a VBAC if she is a candidate," Bishop said. "If they want to have a large family, they're counseled not to have a C-section" if a VBAC doesn't pose a high risk.

Lolita Spangler of Hagerstown, who is expecting a baby in October, was so concerned about whether she could have a VBAC that she contacted an anesthesiologist, and also spoke to Bishop. Her impression, based on what she heard from her doctor, was that restrictions on after-hours VBACs was policy. She since has been told she could have a VBAC.

After hearing from an obstetrician's office last spring that VBACs might be restricted after certain hours, Tara Louchery opted to have a home birth when her baby is due in October.

"It was too iffy for me to be planning a hospital stay" without knowing for sure she could have a VBAC, Louchery said. She said she has not talked to the hospital about the matter.

Some of the women contacted the Baltimore chapter of International Cesarean Awareness Network with their concerns. Chapter leader Barbara Stratton said she started hearing in April that the hospital had a policy that VBACs only would be permitted between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. because of anesthesiology staffing issues.

Stratton said she did not talk to the hospital to confirm whether there was such a policy. But she said women who qualify for VBACs should have them.

"Whatever they need to do to make this happen, they need to do," she said.

Barry Wertheimer, chairman of anesthesiology at the hospital, said staffing has not changed. He said his department was alerting obstetricians that between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., anesthesiologists might not be available to meet new recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"This is not about limiting women's rights," Wertheimer said. "This is about the safest possible outcome."

Expectant mothers with questions about VBACs should contact the hospital, Bishop said.

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