FAQs about ICAN

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What is ICAN?

The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to supporting women who have had cesareans, women who are trying to prevent an unnecessary cesarean, and women who are pursuing Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).

How does ICAN fulfill its mission?

ICAN supports over 100 local chapters in the United States and many around the world. Volunteer chapter leaders do most of the work in supporting women in their communities through in-person meetings, message boards, email lists, Facebook groups, local activism, and fundraising. In addition, ICAN hosts a private Yahoo email group, a private Facebook group, online support and educational webinars, and occasional national conferences.

How do I find a chapter near me?

Visit our “Find A Chapter” tab to search for a chapter near you. If you cannot find a chapter close to where you live, contact the chapter director at chapter.director@ican-online.org. You may also be interested in starting a chapter. This information can be found at “Starting a Chapter”.

What does the burgundy ribbon stand for?

ribbon2The burgundy color of the ribbons represents birth and the wearing of the ribbon upside down symbolizes the state of distress many pregnant women find themselves in when their birthing options are limited. The loop of the inverted ribbon represents a pregnant belly and the tails are the arms of a woman outstretched in a cry for help. The shape also signifies the uterus and fallopian tubes. The Cesarean Awareness Ribbon debuted in April of 2004 for Cesarean Awareness Month.

I am feeling very upset about my cesarean. How can I find help?

If you feel so upset that you fear that you might harm yourself or your baby, please seek professional help immediately by calling 911 or contacting your doctor. Postpartum mood disorders are more common in mothers after cesareans, so please seek professional help immediately if you feel you are in danger. ICAN believes that women deserve and need support after birth, especially if their birth experience was less than ideal. Women are often made to feel guilty for feeling bad about their births even if their baby was born healthy. You have the right to mourn any trauma you may feel about your birth while still celebrating your baby. Different ways that ICAN can support can be found under the “Support” tab. Local chapter leaders provide support through Facebook, message boards, email groups and in-person meetings. Find a local chapter using the “Find A Chapter” tab.

How did ICAN start?

ICAN was founded in 1982 in the United States as the Cesarean Prevention Movement, in response to a birth climate that enforced a “once a cesarean, always a cesarean” rule. In the 21st century, the rate of cesarean births in the United States has skyrocketed to 33%. While ICAN believes that cesareans do save lives when used appropriately, we recognize that the increase in the number of cesareans has not resulted in an increase in healthy mothers and babies. ICAN has worked tirelessly to encourage evidence-based birth practices, and educating mothers about their choices in birth.

Who is in charge?

ICAN is an all-volunteer organization. The ICAN board of directors consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Legal Advisor and other Board Members as needed. In addition, Regional Coordinators help support local chapters. An Executive Team leads various volunteer projects for ICAN nationally and internationally. Contact information for the current leadership team is available on the Contact page.

How much is membership?

Membership in ICAN is available at several different levels, beginning at a 1-year supporting membership of $30. Members receive our quarterly newsletter, The Clarion, along with discounts to our bookstore and ICAN conferences. Throughout the year, ICAN will also provide free or discounted access to educational webinars featuring some of today’s greatest voices in the birth community. While most of ICAN’s services do not require membership, we urge anyone who believes in ICAN’s mission to become a member in order to support our work. Visit (Join page) to join ICAN today.

What does ICAN do with my membership money?

ICAN divides the money collected from memberships between the local chapter and the national organization. Local chapters keep 30% of the membership funds to use for meetings, events, activities, or education as needed. The remaining 70% is used by the national organization to pay for the website and software, tax assistance, insurance, postage, and office supplies; all the things that keep ICAN running as an organization. Local chapters and ICAN national may choose to fund raise or accept donations to aid their chapters or the organization as well. ICAN operates with a very small budget, and the board of directors works hard to use those funds wisely.

How can I get a list of ICAN-recommended doctors?

ICAN does not recommend care providers. Many local chapters will collect names of providers who have attended their members in VBACs, but ICAN realizes that choosing a care provider is a personal choice and no one provider is right for every woman. Each woman should determine for herself what she will need in labor, and find a care provider whose values and personality line up with her needs. Start the process of finding a care provider by talking with other women about their experiences. Then interview several providers before hiring one. Some states will also make cesarean and VBAC statistics available by hospital. You can also check to see if your hospital currently has a ban on VBAC. You might want to call the hospital yourself to determine their current policies, as guidelines may change without notice. Remember that you can change care providers at any time in your pregnancy if you feel that you are not receiving the care you want.

My local hospital has banned VBAC. What can I do?

Visit our Advocacy page to read about options when your hospital does not permit VBAC. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines on VBAC can be found here.

What are Professional Subscribers?

ICAN's Professional Subscriber Network includes doulas, CBEs, chiropractors, massage therapists, hypnobirth therapists, midwives, obstetricians and anyone else who feels they have a service they can provide to pregnant women. Professional subscribers have paid a fee to be listed on ICAN’s website and agreed to support our mission; however, this is not a guarantee that they will be the right professional for your needs. ICAN's Professional Subscriber Network is intended as an informational resource for consumers. ICAN is pleased to pass along the names of professionals who have given us permission to release their names for referral. Please understand that ICAN is not a credentialing agency or a regulatory body. As such, we are not responsible for the competency of the professionals listed. Consumers are encouraged to take responsibility for their birth experience by informing themselves regarding the competency of those professionals that they retain. Asking questions, obtaining local references and understanding that you are responsible for your own choices by thorough reading and discussing care with other parents and care providers is essential and is your responsibility.

How can I volunteer with ICAN?

Because ICAN is run by volunteers, we always need help fulfilling our mission. If you would like to contribute your time and talents to our mission, please contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteer@ican-online.org or visit our “Volunteer Positions” page. Opportunities are available at all different levels of involvement.

Frequently Used Acronyms

  • VBAC – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
  • CBAC – Cesarean Birth After Cesarean. Usually used to describe a birth in which a woman wanted or planned a VBAC, but the birth ended in a cesarean.
  • VBA2C (or VBAMC) – Vaginal Birth After 2 Cesareans (or Vaginal Birth After Multiple Cesareans)
  • UBAC – Unassisted Birth After Cesarean. A vaginal birth in which no birth attendants were present, usually only the mother, and perhaps her partner or family members.
  • ECV – External Cephalic Version. This procedure is used to try to turn a breech baby to a vertex position during the 3rd trimester. The care provider will place his/her hands on the outside of the pregnant mother’s abdomen and will press on the abdomen in order to manually force the baby to turn.
  • ERCS – Elective Repeat Cesarean Section. A cesarean usually scheduled and performed without labor, when the mother is not planning a VBAC.
  • OP – Occiput Posterior. A position in which the unborn baby is facing toward the mother’s front, which may make delivery more difficult.
  • LOA – Left Occiput Anterior. Considered the best position for the unborn baby during labor.
  • CPD - Cephalopelvic Disproportion. A questionable medical diagnosis in which the baby’s head is supposedly too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. This is one of the most commonly used reasons for performing a cesarean.
  • FTP – Failure to Progress. This is a questionable diagnosis that declares the woman’s labor to be too long, or stalled. This is another commonly used reason for performing a cesarean.
  • PROM – Premature Rupture of Membranes. This is when a woman’s “water” breaks before labor begins.
  • SROM – Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes. This is when a woman’s “water” breaks on its own during labor, in contrast to having a care provider break the membranes manually.
  • NST – Non-Stress Test. This non-invasive test, performed in a doctor’s office or hospital, is an indicator of how well a baby is doing inside the womb. This primarily involves monitoring a baby’s heart rate over the course of about 30 minutes or more. An NST may be recommended by your care provider if you have any complications or risk factors that may impact your baby’s health. It is common for care providers to also recommend an NST when a pregnancy extends beyond a woman’s due date.
  • ACOG – The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This is the professional organization that publishes guidelines for doctors to guide their practice.