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NIH Consensus Development Conference on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean: New Insights; Notice

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Notice is hereby given by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the “NIH Consensus Development Conference on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean: New Insights” to be held March 8-10, 2010, in the NIH Natcher Conference Center, 45 Center Drive, Bethesda, Maryland 20892. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. on March 8 and 9 and at 9 a.m. on March 10, and it will be open to the public.

Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is the delivery of a baby through the vagina after a previous cesarean delivery. For most of the 20th century, once a woman had undergone a cesarean (the delivery of a baby through an incision made in the abdominal wall and uterus), many clinicians believed that all of her future pregnancies required delivery by cesarean as well. However, in 1980, an NIH Consensus Development Conference panel questioned the necessity of routine repeat cesarean deliveries and outlined situations in which VBAC could be considered. The option for a woman with a previous cesarean delivery to try to labor and deliver vaginally rather than plan a cesarean delivery was thus offered and exercised more often from the 1980s through the early 1990s. Since 1996, however, VBAC rates in the United States have consistently declined, while cesarean delivery rates have been steadily rising.

The exact causes of these shifts are not entirely understood. A frequently cited concern about VBAC is the possibility of uterine rupture during labor because a cesarean delivery leaves a scar in the wall of the uterus at the incision site, which is weaker than other uterine tissue. Attempted VBAC may also be associated with endometritis (infection of the lining of the uterus), the need for a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or blood transfusion, as well as neurologic injury to the baby. However, repeat cesarean delivery may also carry a risk of bleeding or hysterectomy, uterine infections, and respiratory problems for the newborn. Having multiple cesarean deliveries may also be associated with placental problems in future pregnancies. Other important considerations that may influence decisionmaking include the number of previous cesarean deliveries a woman has experienced, the surgical incision used during previous cesarean delivery, the reason for the previous surgical delivery, her age, how far along the pregnancy is relative to her due date, and the size and position of her baby. Given the complexity of this issue, a thorough examination of the relative balance of benefits and harms to mother and baby will be of immediate utility to practitioners and pregnant mothers in deciding upon a planned mode of delivery.

A number of nonclinical factors are involved in this decision as well and may be influencing the decline in VBAC rates. Some individual practitioners and hospitals in the U.S. have decreased or eliminated their use of VBAC. Professional society guidelines may influence utilization rates because some medical centers do not offer the recommended supporting services for a trial of labor after cesarean (e.g., immediate availability of a surgeon who can perform a cesarean delivery and on-site anesthesiologists). Information related to complications of an unsuccessful attempt at VBAC, medico-legal concerns, personal preferences of patients and clinicians, and insurance policies and economic considerations may all play a role in changing practice patterns. Improved understanding of the clinical risks and benefits and how they interact with legal, ethical, and economic forces to shape provider and patient choices about VBAC may have important implications for health services planning.

To advance understanding of these important issues, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Medical Applications of Research of the NIH will convene a Consensus Development Conference from March 8 to 10, 2010. The conference will address the following key questions:

  • What are the rates and patterns of utilization of trial of labor after prior cesarean, vaginal birth after cesarean, and repeat cesarean delivery in the United States?
  • Among women who attempt a trial of labor after prior cesarean, what are the vaginal delivery rate and the factors that influence it?
  • What are the short- and long-term benefits and harms to the mother of attempting trial of labor after prior cesarean versus elective repeat cesarean delivery, and what factors influence benefits and harms?
  • What are the short- and long-term benefits and harms to the baby of maternal attempt at trial of labor after prior cesarean versus elective repeat cesarean delivery, and what factors influence benefits and harms?
  • What are the nonmedical factors that influence the patterns and utilization of trial of labor after prior cesarean?
  • What are the critical gaps in the evidence for decision-making, and what are the priority investigations needed to address these gaps?

An impartial, independent panel will be charged with reviewing the available published literature in advance of the Start Printed Page 3746conference, including a systematic literature review commissioned through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The first day and a half of the conference will consist of presentations by expert researchers and practitioners and open public discussions. On Wednesday, March 10, the panel will present a statement of its collective assessment of the evidence to answer each of the questions above. The panel will also hold a press telebriefing to address questions from the media. The draft statement will be published online later that day, and the final version will be released approximately six weeks later. The primary sponsors of this meeting are the NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research.

Advance information about the conference and conference registration materials may be obtained from the NIH Consensus Development Program Information Center by calling 888-644-2667 or by sending e-mail to consensus@mail.nih.gov. The Information Center's mailing address is P.O. Box 2577, Kensington, Maryland 20891. Registration information is also available on the NIH Consensus Development Program Web site at http://consensus.nih.gov.

Please Note:

The NIH has instituted security measures to ensure the safety of NIH employees, guests, and property. All visitors must be prepared to show a photo ID upon request. Visitors may be required to pass through a metal detector and have bags, backpacks, or purses inspected or x-rayed as they enter NIH buildings. For more information about the security measures at NIH, please visit the Web site at http://www.nih.gov/​about/​visitorsecurity.htm.

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Dated: January 11, 2010.

Raynard S. Kington,

Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health.

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[FR Doc. 2010-859 Filed 1-21-10; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4140-01-M