Distance to OBGYN care for Pregnancy
Is it crazy to consider Obgyn + L&D at UCSF (Mission Bay or SF birthing center) in the city, if it is about a 45 min drive from us but one of the best in the country for OB care. I have been struggling w PCOS for years before the pregnancy and am nervous about selecting an OB who knows how to deal w the nuances of this viz a viz the pregnancy.
Would love it if the group could help weigh in with pro/cons!
May 13, 2023
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I'd be nervous about having a long drive if something urgent comes up. I too struggle with PCOS and had a high risk pregnancy due both to age (36 at the time) and fertility issues. I saw the specialists at Kaiser Oakland and they were amazing. I'm not sure how close you are to Oakland, but I used BART and the Kaiser Shuttle at the start of my pregnancy, and was driven there towards the end, parking was easy and I could get there quickly from Berkeley. I had two babies at Kaiser Oakland.
I delivered my first baby at UCSF Mission Bay while living in Oakland and it was the best decision for us. We transferred into their care during an incredibly complicated and high-risk pregnancy - if we ever get pregnant again, my hope is to start in their care from the get-go. Yes, the distance is a little anxiety inducing, but they are great at doing some check-ups via video, which helps ease burden a bit. Some moms of course probably don't like that, but I found the video visits and doctor access to be a great comfort! Best of luck.
For my first pregnancy, I was about 2 miles from our birth center, and the drive there while in labor was absolute hell. Every stop, start, and turn was excruciating. I cannot imagine going through that for 45 minutes. Obviously, everyone's labor experience is different, but if your labor is anything like mine, that drive will be tough. Also, going into SF for every appointment will start to be a huge time commitment as those appointments become more frequent - at the end you'll be going weekly or more! I had a great OB at Alta Bates and think the team there is great. I didn't have PCOS but I did have two different complications with my second pregnancy and they took great care of me through both.
I don't think it's crazy given you have PCOS. I went to UCSF during my pregnancy and it was 30 minutes away, 45 with traffic. The only issue is that when your baby comes, it might be difficult to get there. But you could always think about staying somewhere closer as your due date approaches (if that's feasible for you).
I used an ob in the city and went to cpmc because I really liked the hospital (new). I went to Alta bates a few times and personally could not imagine giving birth there for a number of reasons. I would go to John Muir over Alta bates personally. During the end of the pregnancy when you have to go in very often it was a pain, but in my opinion worth it. We had no issue getting there for the birth, you tell them how far you live and they will tell you when to come in taking traffic into account. Going through a first pregnancy can be scary, I would find the provider you trust and have a good rapport with and are comfortable with their practice and who may be at your delivery and go off of that. If you want to find someone who is well versed in a higher risk pregnancy search for that. The only downside is getting there for appointments, the upside is you feel comfortable, less anxious and hopefully less alone. I am not sure you have to do ucsf if there is another hospital closer. I really liked cpmc and have only heard good things.
Hi, just here to say I wouldn’t assume UCSF would be better. A few years ago, with my first, I looked at the numbers and Alta Bates (if I recall correctly) had about 7,000 births/year at that time vs 1500 at UCSF, and a much lower c-section rate. Also, my second was born in a big UCSF-like hospital in NJ and I had a bad experience both medically and otherwise. Big research hospitals are definitely better for some things, but not all. That said, I do not recommend Sutter for OBs (see recent threads on that) so you’d have to find someone good who delivers at AB. Either way, good luck!
I personally don’t think it makes sense. For example, I had a complication where I wasn’t supposed to travel more than 15 minutes away from a hospital at any point after 24 weeks, so crossing the Bay Bridge would have been out of the question. Unlikely to happen, but it could. I also had to have very frequent ultrasounds and appointments in the second half; even for a normal pregnancy towards the end you are being seen weekly. I also know several people who have had extremely quick labors even with their first baby and they would not have made it to the hospital if it had been that far.
PCOS is very common so should be bread and butter stuff for any OB (I’m a medical provider with some prenatal care experience).
That said, plenty of people do it, to each their own. Just wouldn’t have worked for me I hope that helps!!
I went with my gut and delivered 45min away and it was such a better experience than my 2nd pregnancy as the care team was aligned with my labor goals. I was actually scared to be that far and was nervous about contractions in the car, my doula gave me some great tips and how tos for traveling to the hospital while in labor. I say go for it!
I recommend my doula if you need one or to consult with one. https://sites.google.com/view/sfbirthservices/home
Hi, I live in the Oakland hills and am currently a patient at UCSF as my pregnancy is high-risk so no, I don’t think it’s crazy. It won’t be fun at the end of pregnancy to be driving into the city 2x per week, but I’ll have peace of mind knowing I’m being watched carefully. I’ll also have a schedule C-section at 37 weeks, so I’ll not have to deal with the unknown of traffic and going into labor. Additionally, I only go on-site for ultrasounds as my perinatologist appointments are by video and my labs are done at the UCSF outpatient center in Berkeley. You should probably request an appointment with a perinatologist to determine your risk factors and whether you’re going to need extra care, or at least speak to your OB about your concerns. Good luck!
I also live in the east bay and give birth at UCSF Mission Bay twice--and will do so again this fall. I'm happy to chat via messages if you're curious about details. But it was obviously the right choice--the twins from my first pregnancy needed a long NICU stay, and they received fantastic care at UCSF. My current pregnancy has serious complications which entails seeing a specialist every week--I would have ended at UCSF through a referral even had I started my prenatal care elsewhere.
The tricky thing to keep in mind is whether or not you can get across the bridge in time when you go into labor. Since this is my third pregnancy and birth will likely be fast (my last labor was less than 3 hours), I'm probably going to find an airbnb near UCSF for the last week or two. Expensive and inconvenient, but I think it's well worth it to be near doctors that I trust. I started my first pregnancy at Alta Bates and did not have a good experience--ended up transferring to UCSF at 30 weeks (which is the latest they'll accept transfer patients).
This is a personal decision but I wanted to offer that many UCSF-trained obgyns stay in the area but work elsewhere. The residency program is the best rated in the country. Possible you could split the difference by seeking out an obgyn who trained at UCSF but lives closer to you? I worked with an obgyn and practice I loved (Sutter East Bay) & my primary doc there (Taub) is UCSF-trained and highly competent. For delivery, I personally didn’t want to have to think about traffic or bridges while in labor (which didn’t end up mattering after all as I was induced at 41 weeks), but of course it’s up to you how you want to prioritize!
Congrats on your pregnancy!
My first child was born at UCSF Mission Bay in November, and I was so glad that I choose UCSF. My primary care and gyno have always been at UCSF from when I lived in the City, and I went to the UCSF CRH for IVF, so it was very easy to continue care within the system. But for a more nuanced or higher risk pregnancy, it's 100% worth the drive. I was able to do a mix of virtual visits and see my OB at the Berkeley Outpatient Center in order to reduce the number of drives over the bridge. I loved that I could have a mix of midwife and OB care, and my labor and delivery were overseen by a midwife, but if anything had gone wrong, it would have been an easy transfer down the hall. I was a high risk for placenta issues, and having easy access to state of the art testing, diagnostics and monitoring was incredibly reassuring. For any issues that may pop up, UCSF has an expert that can be consulted. My OB did say that if labor progressed faster than expected and traffic was bad, that I could always go to a closer hospital, but I went into labor on a Sunday night, so I didn't have any trouble getting to the hospital.
I live in Berkeley, had all my prenatal care at UCSF, and gave birth there! I could schedule my appointments at times when there was no traffic (I had a lot of them in the end since I had some complications). I was induced, so the birth was timed, but I think there is often plenty of time to the hospital for a first-time baby, and my doctor was never concerned. The care I got was amazing and worth the travel!
Hi - just wanted to weigh in. I live in Oakland and delivered at CPMC. It was annoying to drive to appointments but it was worth it at the end. My husband was a little annoyed driving back and forth when I was staying in the hospital but I felt most comfortable there. I would do it again!
I know people from the East Bay who have given birth at UCSF and it worked out fine, but as someone whose total labor barely took 45 minutes, I'd say at least have a backup plan if you do go that route! I know it's rare but it's something to consider.
I had a complex pregnancy and preexisting conditions so saw an OB at UCSF Mission Bay. I was living in SF at the start of my pregnancy but had moved to the EB by the end. I won’t lie, the constant trek back and forth—particularly at the end, when I needed weekly monitoring appts—was a slog. But when it was clear I’d be delivering early at 31 weeks and rushed to the hospital (in the middle of the night of course—but at least no bridge traffic?) I was so grateful to be at UCSF. My care was always extraordinary. I never once was scared for myself or my baby, and they were not only excellent as surgeons and doctors but so very kind. Our baby went to the NICU and, again, I was so relieved he was at one of the best NICUs in the country. (Once he improved a bit we did transfer to Benioff so he’d be closer to home).
Feel free to DM me if you’d like to chat further, and congrats and good luck!
I don’t have PCOS but was a high risk pregnancy for other reasons and got the best care at UCSF. After reading all the discussions about best hospitals for complicated or high risk pregnancies on BPN and speaking to a Bay Area OB and L&D nurse I knew, I was assured UCSF was the best place to be. I ended up having to be induced so the worry of getting there quickly ended up not being relevant for me but I have only good things to say about my experience there.
Hi - I did that for my pregnancy while living in Oakland - I received care at UCSF. I had a pretty terrifying time and was put on bed rest at 23 weeks because of a risk of uterine rupture, which would be fatal to mom and baby. I was really scared of getting stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital, but also had some trust issues after previous trauma with a miscarriage so wanted to be with a doctor I felt completely comfortable with. It probably would have been fine to be in the east bay as there are wonderful doctors on both sides, but the UCSF plan worked well for me, and my son and I are healthy and safe despite a difficult birth and brief NICU stay. I hope other posters will share good stories about all of the awesome east bay doctors - there are plenty! Trust yourself and try to just go with whatever is going to give you peace of mind. I am sorry you have to worry about this and wish you the best!
One thing to know is that UCSF is group care, so your provider will change from appointment to appointment. It’s also a teaching hospital, so you have to be ok with residents as part of the experience (I was and delivered there twice).
Not crazy. You have to go with your gut.
I live in the East Bay and started my care at UCSF but ultimately decided to go with an OB from Sutter East Bay for my care. First pregnancy, my water broke during the second trimester, and I stayed at/delivered at Alta Bates. Me in for hospital for a few weeks. Baby in the NICU for about few months. Care was great! (I’m still in touch with baby’s NICU nurses a couple years later.) While I was in the hospital, my OB was not on call but called me everyday to check in. Also, all of my appointments were with my OB, which was important to me.
Second pregnancy (which is occurring now), same Sutter EB OB. Same diligence and care dealing with this high-risk pregnancy. She works great with the MFMs. MFMs have been great at coordinating care with her as well. My main MFM even gave me her cell to call her with questions. I’m really a fan!
But, again, it’s not crazy to be 45 minutes away. (Women I met were traveling 2 hours to get Berkeley for care.) I made a different decision and am mostly responding to say that high-risk pregnancy care in the East Bay is good too! (A good friend was an OB at UCSF, so I am also team UCSF!)
Wanted to weigh in and say that I’ve been thrilled with the care I’ve received with the MFMs (primarily Dr. Berger and Dr. Romero) and OBs at Sutter and Alta Bates. I’m in the middle of my second pregnancy with a very high risk complication (also delivered my first with a Sutter OB at Alta Bates and had a fantastic experience), which will require an extensive antepartum stay at Alta Bates. I consulted with an MFM at UCSF and she recommended that I continue my care with Sutter. As others have mentioned, many of the Sutter providers were trained at UCSF/Stanford and it’s been amazing to get that quality of care so close to home.