SHOW / EPISODE

Episode 309 How to Tell if the VBAC/HBAC Information You See is Real or Fake

33m | Jun 17, 2024

Julie Francom joins Meagan on the podcast to talk about checking the validity of the information you see surrounding VBAC. There is so much information out there and so much misinformation that we want to help you figure out what is actually evidence-based! 


Julie and Meagan draw on their personal experiences with making corrections to information they understood and have shared. They talk about how the structure, size, and date of a study can influence the statistics. Julie shares why Cochrane reviews are her favorite.


The VBAC Link is committed to helping you have the most evidence-based and truthful information as you make your birthing decisions. We promise to update you with all of the new information as we receive it!


How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details 


03:30 Checking the validity of social media posts

08:01 Our corrected post about VBA2C

12:56 The production behind a statistic or article

18:37 Cochrane reviews

19:06 Checking the dates of studies and emailing us for verification

23:29 Nuchal cords

25:21 Julie’s sleep training story

29:45 Information at your fingertips


Meagan: Hey, hey everybody. Guess what? We have Julie today on the podcast. 


Julie: Hey. 


Meagan: Hey. We’re going to be doing a short but sweet, maybe also a little sassy because as Julie has said, she likes to get sassy these days. 


We’re going to do a short but sweet episode on how to tell if VBAC or HBAC or really just anything–


Julie: Any. 


Meagan: Yeah, any information you see online is real or fake. Now, if you’re following along on our social media, you likely have seen a lot of our myth and fact posts. I think we share them probably once a week honestly because there really are so many things out there that are myths and things that are facts, but on a whole other side and a whole addition to myth and fact is really what should we be believing? What should we be resharing? Right, Julie? I think that this definitely is something that is close to our hearts at least I’m going to say is close to my heart. I think it’s close to Julie’s heart. 


Julie: Oh, for sure. 


Meagan: We want to protect this community and we want this community to find the real information, and not the false information. We know. You can Google anything. 


Julie: So much false information. 


Meagan: You can Google anything and find the real and false information but when it comes to VBAC, like she said, so much false information. 


We’re not even going to do a Review of the Week. We are going to jump right in in just a second after the intro. 

03:30 Checking the validity of social media posts


Meagan: All right, Julie. Are you ready to get spicy?


Julie: Yeah, I think maybe the biggest reason we decided to do this episode and at least for me anyway why I brought it up is because there is so much information out there that looks good, right? You can be like, Oh my gosh, yes. This is amazing. We’re passionate. We as in me and Meagan, but we as in you too who is listening. Clearly, you’re passionate. 


But we really need to be careful what we’re sharing both from our business accounts and what we’re resharing from other people because sometimes if you share this information and it’s incorrect and wrong and it goes viral which there is a recent post that has and sparked this thing, and we’re not going to call anybody out, but when you share misinformation and it goes big and people start believing this incorrect information, it can really do damage to the efforts that we’re trying to make here which is increasing access to VBAC for everybody. 


If you have this entire group of people who think that their chances of having a VBAC at a hospital let’s say are 30% or something like that when really your chances of having a successful VBAC if you get to try– get to try I’m using very loosely– are really between 60-80%. Those are the numbers. 


But there was a post recently that went viral that said it was around 32% in the hospital and that is just simply not true. The post went viral and everybody is jumping on board like, Look how much better home birth is than hospital birth, but those statistics were very flawed from a flawed study that was super small from Germany 20 years ago. 


Meagan: Less than 2000 people. 


Julie: Yeah. Yeah. It could give you some pretty conclusive. Some, but it’s not big. It’s not a meta-analysis. It’s definitely not something to be definitive. It’s from Germany and there are a lot of flaws in the study as well. 


But everybody saw this thing, Oh, HBAC success is 87% and hospital VBAC success is 32%, or whatever the number was. People are like, Look how much better it is at home, and spreading this information which don’t get me wrong, having three HBACs myself, I love home birth. I love home birth after Cesarean for whoever feels it is appropriate for them, but I also know that those numbers are just wrong and if you share that information and these people believe it, they might be choosing HBAC out of fear. 


Meagan: Well, yeah. Absolutely. 


Julie: Instead of having the right information and making the right choice for them. I don’t know. That’s what we want to do here. We want to help you spot misinformation easier and learn to question the things that you see on the internet which sounds so silly. 


For me, I’m like, Okay. Let’s challenge everything. But I saw that post and my first thought was, Heck yeah. That’s crazy. I’m all for home birth but then I was like, Wait a minute. These numbers don’t feel right to me. 


Meagan: It doesn’t make sense. 


Julie: So then I dug a little bit deeper into it. We just want to equip you with knowledge so you are doing your best to get the most accurate information and spot the information that is not necessarily true. I think we are all guilty of it. I’m just going to keep talking, Meagan::. 


Meagan: I know. I was going to say really quickly. Just like what you said, you were like, Heck yeah, as someone who is passionate about birth or maybe someone who may have trauma. I’m talking about this specific post but really in any general post, someone who may have trauma surrounding the opposite of what that post is supporting, it’s so easy to just be like, Boom. Share. You know?


Julie: Yeah, you’d be like, Oh my gosh, yes. I love HBAC. Let’s share this. Let’s increase VBAC. Everyone needs to hear this. This is important information. We get excited, right? 


Meagan: Right, but we need to do exactly what Julie said and take a step back and I mean, this goes for anything. It might be sharing the correct age of a child being out of a car seat. I mean, just random and you’re like, Yeah, that looks good. Boom. Share. 


Make sure that you are sharing the right stuff. 


08:01 Our corrected post about VBA2C


Meagan: So let’s talk about this. Keep going, Julie. I know you were on a tangent going into it. Let’s talk about how to understand if it’s real. 


Julie: Well, first of all, I think before we do that, I want to admit that we have been guilty of sharing, I don’t want to say misinformation because I guess it kind of was. A few years ago, we misquoted an ACOG bulletin about VBAC. 


Meagan: Yeah. 

Julie: It was me. I did it. It was me. I’m the problem, Taylor Swift fans. 


What had happened was that ACOG, in their bulletin about VBAC after two C-sections, cited two studies. One study that they cite– first of all, they say that VBAC after two Cesareans is a safe and reasonable option for parents to attempt and the decision should be patient-based. Anyways, so they cite two studies. 


One study that they cited about VBAC after two Cesareans shows no increase in rupture rates with VBAC after two Cesareans compared to one. The second study that they cited showed risk of almost double the rupture rate for VBAC after two Cesareans compared to one. 


It’s really interesting because they cite these two studies that are equally credible that had drastically different results. So when I made the post, I paraphrased the bulletin that said something to the effect of, “VBAC after two Cesareans shows no increase of rupture risk.” 


Now, that was only really kind of half true because I saw the study and I was like, Oh my gosh, like Meagan:: said, This is exciting! Everyone needs to know this. 


I made the post then we started getting some kickback on it and so we looked again because I was like, Oh, well I will show you where in the ACOG bulletin it says this, and then I went and I was just like, Oh yeah, it doesn’t say exactly that. I unknowingly spread this misinformation so what we did is we updated the post and we posted an additional post that was a correction because here at The VBAC Link, we want to make sure we are giving you 100% accurate information all of the time. 


The reality is that we are humans. We are going to make mistakes sometimes but as soon as we realize that we make these mistakes as long as they are actual mistakes and not just people wanting to talk crap, we’re going to correct ourselves. That’s the biggest thing. 


I want to say that it’s okay to not be perfect all of the time, but I think it’s also important that when you realize you’ve made a mistake that you correct it in the same space that you made it. Anyway, I just wanted to say that. 


Meagan: Yes, not wanting to shame anyone for being excited and making these posts. 


Julie: You should be excited. We’re excited. 


Meagan: Yeah. We were really excited to even see that post earlier and then we had to take a step back. It’s not to even shame that person. They are probably really excited to share that information but again, as a poster, one, take a step back before you share, and two, take a step back before you post. 


If you post and there is question which unfortunately there were a lot of questions on this post, change it. It’s okay. It’s okay to be like, Oh, I actually misunderstood this. 


Julie: Update it. I didn’t see this. Yes. 


Meagan: Or, I didn’t realize this wasn’t as credible as it felt. 


Julie: Or seemed. Right. 


Meagan: One of the best ways to find out of the research or the study or what you are looking at is really, really credible is if it’s peer-reviewed honestly. Right? 


Julie: Right. I think before you even go into that is if you see data or information like this post shared and it doesn’t seem quite right or even if it does seem right and you don’t see a source cited, ask for a source. 


Meagan: Ask for it. 


Julie: Mhmm, especially if they are throwing out numbers like, Home birth has an 87% success rate for VBAC and hospital birth only has 32%, everybody wants to get on board with those numbers, but there were no studies posted. There was no anything so I actually went on and made a comment. I asked about it and she posted four different studies. I was like, Three of these studies aren’t even relevant at all and this one where you are getting numbers from is incredibly flawed. 


I think it’s really cool to get on board with something that shows these fancy numbers, but it’s really important to at least see a source cited I would say. Bare minimum, see a source. Ask for a source and then go through and verify the source. Meagan, yeah. Let’s talk about what makes a source credible. 


12:56 The production behind a statistic or article


Meagan: Yeah. 


Julie: These are just some things. Not all of these things are going to be true all of the time for a credible source, but these are things to look for and why they are important. Sorry, go ahead. 


Meagan: No, yeah. I think one is looking at who even produced it. Who produced this stat or this article or whatever? A lot of the time, someone who produced the article may not be the person who produces the stat or the evidence. That’s something to also keep in mind just because if Sally Jane at whatever company shared an article, it doesn’t mean that she’s not a credible person but I think sometimes when we are digging deep into what is credible and the real original source, it will take us to the original source which then we need to look at. 


ACOG, right? We pay attention to ACOG. Midwifery groups and things like this, we want to look. Who wrote it? 


I think one of the things is what is the full purpose? 


Julie: Yes. 


Meagan: One of those articles that I was reading actually wasn’t in relation to what the post was about. 


Julie: Exactly. 


Meagan: I don’t know if you saw that. 


Julie: Three of them. 


Meagan: The purpose of this article and the goal of why they are one writing it in general and what’s their ultimate goal in giving you the information. 


Julie: Right. 


Meagan: I mean, when I was reading one of them, I was like, Wait, what? 


Julie: And when she shared these four links and I called her out, I said, “These three are about this, that, and the other thing. They are not related to the other things that you posted,” she deleted all of the other information that she shared and just kept the one outdated German study up. I felt really salty then. I still feel a teeny bit salty about that. 


But yeah, I feel like asking the author and the poster. I know that at The VBAC Link, when I was there, I tried to really make sure that we did this and I feel like you still do but whenever we post anything with stats or numbers or anything like that, we try to post a source with that every time. 


Meagan: Yeah, for sure. Exactly. 


Julie: It’s in the course like that. Sorry. I feel like we are going in different directions there so circle back. 


Meagan: Yes. I think you really need to break it down and look at the ultimate study. If it is saying that you have a whatever success chance of having a VBAC in the hospital or having a VBAC in general and you’re looking at the stats, if you’re looking at a review that has 9,000 people and then there is another one that has 400,000 people involved in that study, to me, automatically I’m going to be looking at the difference there because to me, 9,000 is a lot but this one was less than 2,000 specifically. 


Julie: Right. 


Meagan: So when we’re looking at big studies, if you have a very small control group, it’s just not as credible as some other sources. 


Julie: Right. 


18:37 Cochrane reviews


Julie: What I really love is when I can find a Cochrane review of something. Cochrane reviews in my opinion is the most credible place because what Cochrane reviews are is they are a meta-analyses of a bunch of different studies. What they do is they find a whole bunch of different studies or research papers or evidence or just huge collections of data. They go through and pick them all apart and find out which ones are credible or which ones are not credible and then they compile the results in those studies to have a bigger meta-analysis which is a collection of a whole bunch of credible studies pulled apart and data presented. 


I love if I can find a solid Cochrane review because I know that is just about as credible as you can get. Also realize that most studies have flaws and limitations like Meagan:: was talking about. Who is behind the study? Who funded the study? Who contributed to the study? What were the study controls? How many variables were there? Because if you have a study with more than one variable, then your numbers are going to be skewed anyway because these different variables may influence each other. 


If you have, for example, the ARRIVE trial. The ARRIVE trial we know had flaws. I’m not going to go over all of them but they were funded by a doctor at a hospital whose goal was to show that induction provides the same or better outcomes than waiting for spontaneous labor. That was the intention of the study. When you go in trying to prove something, you’re already introducing bias into the study and you could bring protocols or procedures into the study that might not be realistic in the real world that could influence the results of the study which is one of the things that actually happened in the ARRIVE trial. 


A lot of studies I feel like could be picked apart and torn apart which is why I really love Cochrane reviews and meta-analyses is because you can compile all of these and get more accurate results and information. 


Also, here’s the thing with that study, that one study that she showed that had less than 2,000 people and is 20 years old and is based in Germany, that’s not going to be relevant in the current day in the United States. 


Meagan: That’s another thing that I wanted to bring up. 


19:06 Checking the dates of studies and emailing us for verification


Meagan: How long ago was the study? If the study was done in 1990 and we are now in 2024, there is a large chance that things have changed either way. Maybe in favor of that or the opposite. 


Julie: Right. 


Meagan: So we need to look also at the date. If you are looking at something and here at The VBAC Link, we know we have stuff that was even published in 2020 that there may be a new article out in 2022 or 2023 and we need to stay up to date on these things so it is so important to also look at that date because something 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, that might actually be the most recent study. 


Julie: Yeah, and if that is, that’s all you can use. 


Meagan: Right. Right. There’s that. But there may be a newer study. So again, before just clicking “share” or “create” or something like that, it just goes back to stepping back and looking at it. Let me tell you, Women of Strength, right now, if you find a study online and you are like, Wow. I am really, really curious about this post or about this study or whatever it may be, but you are unsure, email us at info@thevbaclink.com. Email us. We will help you. We will help you make sure to break it down and tell you the efficacy. 


Julie: The corrected-ness. 


Meagan: How efficient and correct it is. 


Julie: I don’t think efficient is the correct word. Accurate. 


Meagan: Accuracy. 


Julie: Oh my gosh. You should listen to us. We know how to speak. 


Meagan: Email us, you guys. I don’t even know how to use my words but I can tell you how to break down a study. No, but really. Accuracy. That’s the right word. Thank goodness for Julie. 


Julie: I think that maybe a more appropriate thing for her to have said in that post would be like, “Your chances of having a VBAC are higher at home than in a hospital.” That is accurate, 100% because it is true. Out-of-hospital births, at least around here in Utah. I can’t speak to other parts of the country so maybe I should say that. Around here in Utah where we are, I can confidently say probably in other parts of the country too, when you have a skilled home birth midwife and you are a low-risk pregnancy and VBAC does not make you high-risk P.S., you have a much higher chance. 


Now, there are no studies done here in Utah, but we have seen a lot. I mean, there is this Canadian home birth study that was just done that took a look at VBAC as well that showed some similar things but we know that the American Pregnancy Association says that women who attempt a VBAC have between 60-80% chance of getting a VBAC. 


Now, around here, we in our birth centers and out-of-hospital births and home births see over 90% of that success rate in all of the midwives and stuff like that who we have seen and talked to who have shared their data with us. That is good data. 


Meagan: It is pretty high here. We are lucky here. I have only seen out of 10 years of doing births two VBAC transfers and actually, the one was because she really just wanted an epidural. That’s the only reason why she left and the second one was because we did have quite a stall. I think it all was a mental thing. I think she actually needed to be at the hospital and then they still had VBACs so that’s great. 


Julie: For sure. I’ve seen one transfer, but that cord was wrapped around that baby’s neck four times and they had to cut the cord before they took the baby out via Cesarean. 


Meagan: Whoa. 


23:29 Nuchal cords


Julie: Nuchal cord, a cord wrapped around the neck most of the time is not a need for a Cesarean, but this mom pushed and pushed and pushed at home for hours. We transferred and got her an epidural. Baby’s heart rate started to not do good. They took her back for a C-section. The cord was wrapped around its neck four times and they couldn’t even take the baby out because it was wrapped so tightly. They had to cut the cord in four places before they could pull the baby out by C-section. 


Meagan: Wow, wow. 


Julie: Wild, right? That was an absolutely necessary Cesarean. That baby was not coming out. Absolutely necessary. And things like that are going to happen and it’s cases like that where we are so grateful for C-sections. This is one of those things where if it had been 300 years ago, mom and baby probably would have died because that baby was so wound up in there. This was one of those true cases. Most of the time when people say that, it’s not true in my opinion. Don’t cite me. 


Meagan: Okay, well the true takeaway from today’s episode is to check your facts and if you see something that doesn’t feel right, check it again but don’t just share it and ask for the source if there’s not a source. Check if it’s peer-reviewed. Check if it’s a Cochrane review and all of these things. Again, check the date. Check the amount of people who were in it. Really do your research and if you do have a question, please do not hesitate to email us at info@thevbaclink.com. We’d be glad to help you decipher if that is a good and factual or not-so-factual article or stat or whatever it may be. 


Julie: Whatever it may be. 


25:21 Julie’s sleep training story


Julie: Do you know what is funny? Let me throw out another example really fast and then we will wrap this thing up. Years and years and years ago, nine years ago– my first VBAC baby just turned 9. After he was born, oh my gosh. All the things. I had all of the mental health things. One of my biggest things was that I thought, this is probably going to be a little controversial. I thought that in order to be a good mom, I had a checklist because I wasn’t going to have a NICU baby. I wasn’t going to have the same situation. I thought it had to be completely different. 


I had to breastfeed. I had to go and get him every single time he cried right away instantly and drop everything. I thought I had to do all of these X, Y, and Z things. What is that method called? It starts with a W I think. Anyway, it’s kind of a modified version of crying it out. You let them cry for a minute and then two minutes or whatever. It worked really well and he is still my best sleeper to be honest. 


I thought, Oh my gosh. I am so bad. I can’t believe I damaged my child. Yada, yada, yada and there are probably people listening right now who are like, Well, you did damage your child by doing that. But anyway, he’s damaged for other reasons but not that one. 


So with my second, I wasn’t going to do it because there was a study that showed that babies who were left alone to cry it out had the stress part of their brain remain activated up to an hour after they stopped crying and all of these things. I was like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that. I’m the most horrible mom ever.


Clearly, I think differently now, but I paid a postpartum doula to come in and help me learn how to gently encourage them to sleep. Well, it turned out my stinking baby would cry in his sleep. He would cry while he was sleeping. 


Meagan: Oh, no way. 


Julie: I would go in there and I would be like, Oh, super mom to the rescue. I would pick him up and wake my baby up who proceeded to cry for two hours because he couldn’t go back to sleep because I was waking him up. Anyway, it was this whole thing. I know, stupid right? Every baby is different. 


But my point is that this study which everybody was sharing about the damages of crying it out and how we are damaging our children and they are going to grow up to be people who feel unloved– that was the thing. Do you remember that? Do you remember that? It was 9 years ago or so, maybe a little bit more recently than that. 


The study had four babies in it. Four, Meagan::. Four babies. 


Meagan: Four? 


Julie: Four. And these babies were in a hospital environment in those little plastic bassinets so not only were there only four babies, but they were monitoring them in an environment that is unfamiliar and not letting their caretaker come in and soothe them at any time during this study. 


Meagan: What? 


Julie: Yes. Don’t let your baby cry until they throw up for sure. Go and soothe your baby, but four babies in an unfamiliar environment without their caretaker there at any part of it. 


Meagan: Wow. That was enough to say that that was– 


Julie: Yes. This is where all of these advocates for not letting your baby cry at all got their information from. Isn’t that ludicrous? That is insane, right? 


Meagan: That is insane. That just means that we need to take a steb back, look at what we are sharing, don’t just share it, and always look at the study. Always, always, always look at the study. 


Julie: Absolutely. And look at the damage that did to my mental health and not only me, everybody else’s. I know I’m not the only one. 


So seriously, dig in deep and trust your intuition and follow your instincts. You know what’s right. Going on the tangent for your baby, but also if you see something that feels a little strange or is showing numbers without information, ask for evidence. Ask for proof. Where did you get that information from? 


29:45 Information at your fingertips


Julie: Because we have, I will say this and then we will close it up. I promise. I hate it when people say, “Oh, don’t confuse your Google search for my medical degree.” Well, that’s B.S. because do you know how many times I’ve seen doctors Google something while I’ve been in their office? Yeah, for real. First of all, not saying that a Google search is the equivalent of a medical degree at all. I know way more goes into that. 


But, we have access to the largest database of information that was ever existed in the entire history of humanity. We have access to Google. There’s Google. There’s Google Scholar and if you know how to distinguish between credible versus non-credible information, there is so much power in a Google search that you can use to help you in anything you need to know. Anything in the entire world. 


Should you have a doctor? Sure. You absolutely should. But also, you know yourself and you have access to all of this information and it’s a very powerful tool that we have and we should be really grateful for it because we don’t have to rely 100% on other people with a different knowledge than us anymore. So don’t discount that. Don’t discount your ability to find out if something is credible or not because you have access to that power at your fingertips. It’s pretty freaking amazing. Okay, done.


Meagan: It is. Okay, done. All right, Women of Strength. We are going to let you go. We said it was going to be a quick one. It really was and hopefully, you got some information and will feel more confident in going out and looking at all of the many things that it said about VBAC. 


I honestly think that is another reason why we created our course, Julie, because we were so easily able to find so many things that were false out on the internet and we wanted to make sure that all of the real, credible sources were in one place. 


So find those places, you guys. Check out our blog. Check out the podcast. We have lots of links. Check out our course. So many amazing things. So many great stats. 


And hey, if you find a stat and find something within our blog and you are like, Oh my gosh, I’ve seen something new, let us know for sure. We want to make sure that the most up-to-date information is out there. So we do not hesitate to take any suggestions. If you see something, question us for sure. Please, please, please because like Julie said earlier, sometimes people misunderstand or misword or whatever and we want to give them credit but we really want to make sure that the right information is given to you. 


Julie: Absolutely. 


Meagan: Without further ado, I’m going to say goodbye and I love you. Bye. 


Julie: Without further ado, we will say adieu. 


Meagan: We will say goodbye. 


Julie: Bye. 


Closing


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