Objective: To investigate the safety of a trial of labour (TOL) after two or three previous caesarean sections.
Study design: Retrospective analysis of medical records of women with a history of more than one previous caesarean section who gave birth during a 10-year period (1988-1997) in two large university hospitals in The Netherlands.
Results: Women numbering 30,132 gave birth with a hospital caesarean birth rate of 14.8%. There were 246 women with a history of more than one previous caesarean section: 187 (76%) delivered by elective repeat caesarean section (ERCS); 59 (24%) had a trial of labour, of whom 49 (83%) had a vaginal birth. Three uterine ruptures occurred after previous lower segment caesarean sections without maternal or perinatal mortality related to the uterine rupture; only one rupture was during a trial of labour. In the study group there was no maternal mortality. Maternal morbidity did not differ between women with an elective repeat caesarean or a failed trial of labour. Perinatal mortality was not related to the mode of delivery.
Conclusion: Elective repeat caesarean section is not the only answer to a woman with two or three previous caesarean sections. A trial of labour can be a safe option for a selected group of women.