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OBJECTIVE: To conduct a secondary analysis of data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) to estimate the rates of specific maternal risks associated with planned vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) and elective repeat caesarean section (ERCS). DESIGN: A retrospective cohort analysis using UKOSS data from 4 studies conducted between 2005 and 2012. SETTING: All hospitals with consultant-led maternity units in the UK. POPULATION: Pregnant women who had a previous caesarean section. METHOD: Women who had undergone a previous caesarean section were divided into 2 exposure groups: planned VBAC and ERCS. We calculated the incidence of each of the 4 outcomes of interest with 95% CIs for the 2 exposure groups using proxy denominators (total estimated VBAC and ERCS maternities in a given year). Incidences were compared between groups using χ(2) test or Fisher's exact test and risk ratios with 95% CI. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Severe maternal morbidities: peripartum hysterectomy, severe sepsis, peripartum haemorrhage and failed tracheal intubation. RESULTS: The risks of all complications examined in both groups were low. The rates of peripartum hysterectomy, severe sepsis, peripartum haemorrhage and failed tracheal intubation were not significantly different between the 2 groups in absolute or relative terms. CONCLUSIONS: While the risk of uterine rupture in the VBAC and ERCS groups is well understood, this national study did not demonstrate any other clear differences in the outcomes we examined. The absolute and relative risks of maternal complications were small in both groups. Large epidemiological studies could further help to assess whether the incidence of these rare outcomes would significantly differ between the VBAC and ERCS groups if a larger number of cases were to be examined. In the interim, this study provides important information to help pregnant women in their decision-making process.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





Elective Repeat Caesarean Section, Failed tracheal intubation, Peripartum haemorrhage, Peripartum hysterectomy, Severe sepsis, Vaginal Birth after Caesarean, Body Mass Index, Case-Control Studies, Cesarean Section, Repeat, Elective Surgical Procedures, Female, Humans, Hysterectomy, Intubation, Intratracheal, Postpartum Hemorrhage, Pregnancy, Retrospective Studies, Risk Factors, Sepsis, Uterine Rupture, Vaginal Birth after Cesarean