We’d like to acknowledge the wonderfully smart and talented women who volunteered their time to write the pieces in this guide. These are the women that we need on our side in order to better empower ourselves and our birthing options!
Authors of A Woman’s Guide to VBAC: Navigating the NIH Consensus Recommendations
Kristen Oganowski is the brilliant advocate who dreamed up this Guide and played the most important role in making it happen. She is a mother of two (one born via cesarean, one born via VBAC), doula, and blogger at Birthing Beautiful Ideas. Kristen says, “I am truly honored and humbled to be in the company of the other women who contributed to this guide. We all care deeply about these issues, and we are passionate about helping women to be more informed and empowered as they make decisions about their births! ”
Amy Romano is the co-organizer for the guide and a Certified Nurse-Midwife. She blogs at Science and Sensibility (Lamaze International’s research blog) and writes extensively about research, healthy birth practices, participatory medicine, and how social media can shape maternity care. She says, “nowhere in the U.S. maternity care system is power more clearly out of balance than in decisions about the care of childbearing women who have had prior cesareans. Knowledge is power and I’m so proud to be part of a team helping put the NIH experts’ knowledge in the hands of women.”
Allison Shorten, PhD, is a midwife who has done extensive research on midwifery care, VBAC decision-making, cesarean section, and obstetric outcomes. She is the author of Birth Choices, a decision-aid for women making choices about birth after cesarean and is on the faculty of the Yale School of Nursing. She says “there is a huge gap between the evidence that clearly supports VBAC and the reality of women’s choices in the United States. All women deserve the opportunity to make informed and supported choices about the type of birth that is best for them, using the best available evidence from research. This guide is a step towards achieving this important goal for women.”
Pam Candelaria is a mother of 4 who discovered her enthusiasm for birth advocacy through her cesarean and 3 VBAC journeys. She moderates the VBAC Support forum on BabyCenter and wants to pursue certification as a childbirth educator, hoping to specialize in helping mothers who are choosing VBAC. She says, “It should not take a panel of experts to tell us what we, as women, already instinctively know: Even with a previous cesarean, most of us can safely and successfully deliver our future babies vaginally. But that is exactly what we got from the NIH Conference! The Panel’s Statement on VBAC gives us a solid, evidence-based resource we can use for our own research and to discuss VBAC with our providers.”
Janelle Komorowski, also a Certified Nurse-Midwife, writes the Birth Sense blog and is the author of The Common Sense Guide to Creating Your Pregnancy and Birth Plan. She says, “The NIH meeting was groundbreaking to me. Women have been struggling to find providers of evidence-based care for VBACs. With the NIH findings, I am optimistic that VBAC will be more accessible in the future.”
Desirre Andrews is a doula, childbirth educator, and the current president of ICAN (the International Cesarean Awareness Network). She attended all three days of the NIH Consensus Development Conference on VBAC. She has four children, two of whom were born via cesarean section, one who was born via VBAC after one cesarean , and one who was born via VBAC after two cesareans. She says, “The NIH recommendations for VBAC are incredibly important as mothers had a critical voice in the outcome of the meetings. Women are gaining confidence in pursuing individualized care and the NIH document can be seen as a critical springboard there.”
Hilary Gerber is a medical student who once trained as a midwife and is now preparing to begin her residency in obstetrics and gynecology. She is currently conducting research on obstetricians’ knowledge of and attitudes about evidence-based care, writes the blog Mom’s Tinfoil Hat, and contributes to Mothers in Medicine.
Jill Arnold created and co-authors the enormously popular birth advocacy blog, The Unnecesarean, which focuses on the sharp rise in the use of the cesarean section in recent decades, explores autonomous and informed decision making, and raises the voice of consumers affected by restrictive birth policies. She says, “While the practice of defensive medicine is well documented as a reason for restricting vaginal birth in U.S. hospitals, very little research explores the ways that defensive medicine trickles down to the pregnant woman and her decision making process. This NIH Conference was groundbreaking for this generation of childbearing women in that the way in which risk is communicated to the consumer was discussed in detail. I hope this guide will make the consensus more available and accessible to women in the U.S.”
Rebecca Spence is the Director of New Media for the Big Push for Midwives and recently received her law degree from the University of Maryland. She also attended Day 1 and Day 2 of the NIH VBAC Conference. She says, “Securing access to VBAC is important to me as a matter of women’s human rights. The passion, smarts and heart of advocates at the NIH consensus conference were an inspiring example of the role of consumers, and online activism in shaping health policy.”
Farah Diaz-Tello is a staff attorney with the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. She says, “I care about VBAC deeply, because I believe that the minimum quantum of liberty is being able to decide what happens to one’s own body. If we are truly a nation that values freedom and equality, this liberty must be afforded to everyone, including pregnant women, regardless of whether you or I think it’s prudent. This is the basis of a free society.”
Lauren Cooper is the chapter director for ICAN (the International Cesarean Awareness Network) and a chapter co-leader for ICAN of Syracuse, New York. Lauren has had tremendous success bringing VBAC and cesarean issues to the forefront in the print and television media in Central New York. Lauren has three children, two of whom were born via cesarean and one who was born at home following two cesareans.