Background: In 2010, the NIH and ACOG recommended increasing women's access to trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC). This study explored access to TOLAC in California, change in access since 2007 and 2010, and characteristics of TOLAC and non-TOLAC hospitals.
Methods: Between November 2011 and June 2012, charge nurses at all civilian California birth hospitals were surveyed about hospitals' TOLAC availability and requirements for providers. VBAC rates were obtained from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Distance between hospitals was calculated using OSHPD geocoding.
Results: All 243 birth hospitals that were contacted participated. In 2010, among the 56% TOLAC hospitals, the median VBAC rate among TOLAC hospitals was 10.8% (range 0-37.3%). The most cited reason for low VBAC rates was physician unwillingness to perform them, especially due to the requirement to be continually present during labor. TOLAC hospitals were more likely to be larger hospitals in urban communities with obstetrical residency training. However, there were six (11.3%) residency programs in non-TOLAC hospitals and 5 (13.5%) rural hospitals offering TOLAC. The majority of TOLAC hospitals had 24/7 anesthesia coverage and required the obstetrician to be continually present if a TOLAC patient was admitted; 17 (12.2%) allowed personnel to be 15-30 minutes away. TOLAC eligibility criteria included one prior cesarean (32.4%), spontaneous labor (52.5%), continuous fetal monitoring and intravenous access (99.3%), and epidural analgesia (19.4%). The mean distance from a non-TOLAC to a TOLAC hospital was 37 mi. with 25% of non-TOLAC hospitals more than 51 mi. from the closest TOLAC hospital. In 2012, 139 hospitals (57.2%) offered TOLAC, 16.6% fewer than in 2007. Since 2010, five hospitals started and four stopped offering TOLAC, a net gain of one hospital offering TOLAC with three more considering it. Only two hospitals cited change in ACOG guidelines as a reason for the change.
Conclusions: Despite the 2010 NIH and ACOG recommendations encouraging greater access to TOLAC, 44% of California hospitals do not allow TOLAC. Of the 56% allowing TOLAC, 10.8% report fewer than 3% VBAC births. Thus, national recommendations encouraging greater access to TOLAC had a minor effect in California.