Early elective delivery and vaginal birth after cesarean in rural US maternity hospitals

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3 Scopus citations


Introduction: The purpose of this study was to describe policies on early elective delivery (EED) and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in rural US maternity hospitals and to measure whether hospital policies differ by staffing, facilities, or birth volume. Methods: Data came from a telephone survey, conducted among all rural maternity hospitals in nine US states from November 2013 to March 2014, to report on EED and VBAC at the hospital level. The associations between EED and VBAC and hospital characteristics were analyzed using χ2 and Fisher's exact tests. Results: Most rural maternal hospitals (70.1%) had a 'hard stop' EED policy, whereby elective delivery before 39 weeks gestation was prohibited. Less than half of the rural hospitals surveyed allowed VBACs (38.1%). Rural hospitals with a higher birth volume (p=0.001), with a dedicated obstetric operating room (p < 0.001), and where obstetricians and certified nurse-midwives attended deliveries (p=0.010 and p=0.030, respectively) were more likely to allow VBAC deliveries. Hospitals where family physicians and general surgeons attended deliveries were less likely to allow VBAC deliveries (p=0.002 and p=0.040, respectively). Conclusions: Most rural US maternity hospitals have a hard stop EED policy, consistent with evidence and guideline recommendations. Access to VBAC varies across rural settings, possibly owing to capacity limitations to provide this option. Further research is needed to determine whether and how best to safely implement national recommendations for EED and VBAC policies across a range of rural settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3956
JournalRural and remote health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge helpful input from Dr Kozhimannil?s Rural Hospital Obstetric Advisory Group; the rural hospital survey respondents; the Office of Measurement Services at the University of Minnesota, for fielding the survey; and Michelle Casey, for her helpful review, insights and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© James Cook University 2016.


  • Elective delivery
  • Hospital policy
  • Maternal and child health
  • Rural obstetric care
  • USA
  • Vaginal birth after cesarean delivery


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