Birth at Kaiser WC vs. Alta Bates

Hi everyone! 
I’m due to have my baby in May 2021. I’m currently with kaiser in Walnut Creek but so far I’m not impressed with them (or with any kaiser facility, really) I was thinking of switching insurance plans and having the baby at Alta Bates in Berkeley. Does anyone have any experience giving birth with kaiser in Walnut Creek or Alta Bates? I would appreciate any feedback or advice :) 

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I have birth at Alta Bates in 2019 and had a horrific experience. The labor and delivery rooms are run down, small, and grimy. I labored for 48 hours during which time I had some nurses which were great and some who were just completely incompetent. When I was 8 cm dilated, the nurse forgot to check my IV bag despite the machine beeping for a long time and what ended up happening was that my epidural completely ran out and I felt everything!!!! I was having regular contractions and was in so much pain and when she finally came in my room and saw me in pain she didn’t even address me and acted like I was bothering her.  Also, the anesthesiologist did not dose my epidural correctly (my husband is also an anesthesiologist and he felt that I was not dosed correctly and was constantly calling them in to help me because I was in so much pain). Please avoid Alta Bates at all cost. I am still so traumatized from this experience. I’m expecting my second baby in three weeks and will be going to Kaiser WC. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions. 

What was it at Kaiser WC you weren't impressed with?

I gave birth at Kaiser Oakland and the nurses, midwives, and doctors were all terrific during and after the birth. The nurses checked on me and my pain levels frequently throughout the entire process. The nurse, Kim, who helped me push was really good at explaining what I should be doing. The labor & delivery wing is new and I found the facility to be quite nice. I hope to get pregnant again soon and deliver my 2nd baby at Kaiser Oakland.

One bit of advice regardless of where you end up-both my and my friend's water broke, but I was asked to come in and verify it had broken and she was not. I think she went in initially and it hadn't broken then, but a couple days later it had broken, but when she called the 2nd time she wasn't asked to come in and double check. She subsequently ended up with a uterine infection, which made the labor much more challenging. My advice would be if you believe your water has broken, ask to have it verified even if you need to go in a couple different times so you know for sure.

I gave birth at Kaiser Oakland in August 2018 and had a fantastic experience, it’s my understanding that you can go to any Kaiser facility with L&D and I recommend Oakland. Rooms are great, everyone was super friendly and helpful. I thought I’d hate being in the hospital but I did not and they were very respectful of my birth wishes. Happy to talk more if you’d like. 

I think where you give birth really depends a lot on what is important to you. I can only speak for myself. I had my second baby at Alta Bates in 2019 and had a wonderful experience. I had Kaiser insurance because my husband worked there, but I did not want to have the baby there for several reasons. First, it was important to me that the person who did my prenatal care would be at my birth, as opposed to whichever random doctor or midwife was on call. At Kaiser, OBs either work in L&D, or they do prenatal care, so there was no way that I would have had the same person attending my birth who did my prenatal care. Second, I did not want to give birth at a teaching hospital, but wanted to limit and have a bit more control over the number of people who would be in the room with me. Lastly, I wanted to follow with a private practice midwife where I would have more time during my prenatal appointments and feel comfortable asking all my questions and voicing all of my concerns, and there are a few great ones that have admitting privileges at Alta Bates. So I ended up getting a PPO plan through my job so I could deliver at AB. Some pluses about the L&D rooms, a handful of them have birthing tubs where you can labor, and the others have windows. After birthing my baby, I was given plenty of time to adjust and nurse the baby before being transferred to the postpartum room. I'm sure nurses can be hit or miss, but I'm sure you can request nurses based on the type of birth you are planning (medicated, unmedicated, etc), and you can always request a different nurse if you do not like the one you get. My nurse was great at doing hip squeezes during contractions that really relieved my pain. If you are there for a while and able to walk around, there is also a garden you can visit off of the L&D floor. The main downsides to my experience were that the food was not great, and it was bothersome to have so many nurses in and out during the postpartum period, but I'm sure any hospital would be the same. On the upside, I got to meet with a few different lactation consultants that helped me get off to a great start with nursing my baby.

I gave birth at Alta Bates (under the care of Sutter Medical Foundation) in late 2018. I had a positive experience and would recommend to others. The rooms didn't look as nice as the Kaiser room I saw when my SIL have birth but that wasn't important to me. Some things that impacted my birth experience: my obgyn group (I really liked them and they supported the type of birth I wanted - low intervention, medication free), I had a doula present, I labored for 6 hours before welcoming baby earth side (shorter labors often correlate with more positive experience imo)... Overall, I was very happy with the labor experience and post labor care. I would suggest you take a tour and also investigate who would be delivering for you, if you were to switch. Happy to answer any other questions you have.

I've had two sons at Alta Bates (2017 and 2020) and have had wonderful experiences both times. Yes, the rooms are a bit old and dirty, but hospital rooms in general are dirty. You have to take into account the number of people who come in and out of the room all day long and its not surprising. That being said, I love the L&D department. Overall, I thought the nurses were amazing - were some better than others? Yes. But they clearly loved their jobs and really wanted to make sure I was comfortable. Both deliveries had complications - the first being an emergency c-section, the second had to be delivered early (again through c-section) due to pre-eclampsia at 32 weeks. After the birth of my second child, I stayed an additional 2 weeks in the hospital to regulate my blood pressure and liver enzymes. I stayed in the L&D recovery wing for the entire time and really got to know all of the nurses really well. I trust all of them and would not hesitate to recommend anyone to deliver their child there. I should also note that the NICU at Alta Bates is amazing. I had my son when the pandemic first hit so I felt like we were all learning about the virus together. Throughout the entire experience (He was there for 6 weeks), I didn't once feel as if his or my health was at risk. I'm more than happy to discuss in more detail offline 

I gave birth to my daughter at Alta Bates in late 2017 and had a very positive experience. We spent three nights there as my daughter arrived just after midnight and interacted with many nurses (having stayed through many shift changes). We found them all to be very helpful and caring, though by the end of our stay we were ready to be at home by ourselves (I think this would have happened anywhere). I believe your delivering doctor will depend on which practice you see and most practices rotate schedules so you likely won't end up with your actual doctor - but I think this is also often the case anywhere. I had no problems whatsoever with my care, though I arrived late (already nearly fully dilated) so I didn't require lots of care before the birth. I also opted out of an epidural so didn't interact with any anesthesiologists. The rooms are older but we did not find that to be a problem. At the time, it was easy to take a tour beforehand if you're concerned about this - though that may not be an option right now with COVID. They have a long history of care in this area and perform lots of births every year -- I felt I was in very good hands. Overall, I'd strongly recommend Alta Bates.

I had my first at Alta Bates Berkeley and my second at Kaiser Oakland. Without going into great detail here I would say there were pros and cons to each, but overall I preferred Alta Bates. 

One point about delivering with Kaiser in the Bay Area is that even though you intend to deliver at one location you may well be rerouted to another location based on capacity. I've heard great things about delivering at Kaiser WC though. For me, while much of the staff at Oakland was lovely I did not like delivering at a teaching hospital and I did not always feel like I was being listened to and supported in a way I had hoped for. (Happy to go into more detail here if you're interested, but realize you're asking about WC specifically.)

Alta Bates had its ups and downs, but in the end the delivery team I had made the experience a good one. (Sally the midwife is a rockstar in my humble opinion.) They were accommodating when my husband asked if we could switch into one of the rooms with a tub which ended up being really nice. I definitely felt more pushed towards a c-section by several doctors there which was not the case at Kaiser, but I think based in large part on my first successful vaginal birth. (Both of my births were uncomplicated vaginal births to 9+ pound babies.)

In the end, in both cases, it more specific people at the facilities that made the experience what it was, for better or worse...I don't know what covid precautions either spaces are taking, but having a doula with you, if possible, can make a huge difference in feeling heard, cared for, and advocated for. I decided for me second birth that I didn't need one, but every time I look back on it now, I wish a little bit more that I had chosen to include a doula again the second time around. Again, happy to chat more about this if you're interested.

Best of luck to you and your family!

I think, like the previous response stated, it is a crap shot, even in "baby friendly" L&D's like Alta Bates Berkeley. It is because it is IN a hospital, meaning medicalized care aka not labor and delivery encouraging-friendly for the mama. Even doulas and midwives you hire to be there with you [unfortunately during Covid not universally accepted at all hospitals anyway, Kaiser def isn't allowing more than your partner] aren't necessarily better than a home birth experience, unless you know their qualifications and are used to being advocates for you in a hospital setting. 

I delivered at Kaiser Oakland in early/mid Oct, and I am a physician, and I am now realizing that birth is trauma for the female, regardless of experience, for the first time birth. 

Can’t speak to kaiser but I delivered at Alta Bates on May 20th and my experience was great. Only complaint was the hospital food. If you do deliver there, ask for food from the pantry. They have a pantry on the maternity ward floor that I didn’t find out about, until my last day there and it’s the only edible food in the hospital. 
BTW, I had a C Section there and they did an amazing job. 

I can't speak to the WC Kaiser location, but I had two babies at Kaiser, one in the old (now torn down) Oakland hospital and one in the new Oakland hospital. The new building was fantastic, clean, and the staff was great. There was a pull out bed so my husband could stay over the entire time. We also had our own bathroom in the new hospital, which we didn't in the old hospital- it was awkward to share with another family when you are mostly naked. I had a difficult and traumatic experience at the old hospital, but the 2nd one was so much better as the entire staff was aware of my medical problems and high risk status and brought extra operating room equipment in to be prepared. Fortunately, my 2nd labor was a breeze, and I didn't have any trouble. I'd recommend the Oakland Kaiser to anyone giving birth.

Nearly three years ago we had our son at Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek and don't have any regrets. My wife had a long history with her doctor from Kaiser Martinez, but we delivered with her doctor when she transferred to WC. We didn't have any prior experience with WC. We were both very impressed by the expertise in the room during the C-section, and we really appreciated the many nurses who cared for our baby (and us) for the few days after delivery. The only negative I recall from the experience were the large number of different nurses, doctors and other paper-pushers who seemed to come into our room about every three hours 24/7. 


I had a great experience in Alta Bates! The nurses were great, some of them were exceptional and some doctors too. 


You might be looking for a hospital birth, but I'll just suggest Pacifica Family Maternity Center as another option if you're interested in that. They are right by Alta Bates (which is where they most likely will send you if you have problems during delivery they can't handle). I gave birth to my third there in January. Best experience so far, and I had possitive experiences in a hospital and a birth center before. They are attentive, collaberative and science based. They also helped us feel empowered throughout the process.

They do take insurance but our out of network for everyone. If you choose a PPO, that is the best option for them. We had Cigna. They do the billing but you will have to pay up front and then get reimbursed as your insurance pays. We figured out that because the birth center is half the cost of a hospital birth ($7000 rather than $14000) even with our high costs for out of network care, the birth center would cost us about the same as the hospital. They do have funds to help if cost is a barrier.

I gave birth at Alta Bates in April and had truly spectacular Doctors and nurses. The L&D floor is in a separate building from the emergency room so it felt calm and more safe COVID-wise. The staff was excellent. We had our own room for delivery and then had our own room for the recovery. I labored first 40 hours so it was awful in that regard but the staff made me feel safe and confident that I could deliver vaginally. My doctor was superb and stitched up my third degree tear expertly and I recovered in about 6 weeks. I am very grateful to the Alta Bates team for delivering my healthy and beautiful baby.

I have had a baby at each of these hospitals and while different, both were positive experiences. If I had to choose I would say Walnut Creek and Kaiser was my top for both the coordinated and excellent care and also the cost. My son's birth at Alta Bates ended up being quite a bit more expensive. At both hospitals I gave birth with a midwife and at Alta Bates that was with Golden Oak Midwives (amazing at each step of the process and I highly recommend)

The common thread between both births for me was having an amazing doula as I feel that is what defined the experience much more so than the clinicians at the hospital.

Wishing you all the best.

I gave birth at Alta Bates in Berkeley in late April 2020 and it was great. This was early in Shelter in Place so we were anxious about how it was going to work and if my husband would be allowed to come, but it all worked out fine. The nurses that I had in labor and delivery were very reassuring and responsive, as were the nurses afterwards (I learned a lot about what to do with the baby from those nurses!). They practice skin to skin after birth and were happy for me to keep the baby on me for an hour or so, and helped me to get the baby to latch, before they did the weighing and so on. The decor is fairly old but there was a couch in the labor room which turned into a bed for my husband, and he had a proper bed to sleep in in the room they put us in after the delivery. There's a level III NICU on site which I found reassuring. The lactation consultants who came around helped a lot with figuring out how to latch and showing me different positions I could feed in (and I went back to see them after - Kaitlin in the Lactation Center is amazing). We were able to go to labor classes at Alta Bates before Shelter in Place started and found that enormously helpful to understand what was going to happen and what the hospital policies are, so I highly recommend doing that at the place where you intend to give birth if you can. If we have another one I will go back to Alta Bates. Good luck with the labor and with your baby!

I just want to supply a positive Alta Bates experience. I also gave birth at Alta Bates in 2019 and had a very different experience than the previous reply. I did not find the L&D rooms run down or grimy, and they seemed perfectly average in terms of size, wear and tear, and equipment. The postpartum rooms were a different story - they were small and we were there in July when the A/C wasn't working (they said they'd gotten behind on replacing it), which sucked. Nurses did vary, but most were fine, and some were fantastic. We only had one dud of a nurse in postpartum. My anesthesiologist had a great bedside manner, did a great job placing it, and it did what it was supposed to do - I had no complaints.

I don't discount the previous reply's experience, but, as with any hospital and hospital experience, there will be differences and your mileage may vary. Positive and negative experiences can happen at any hospital. I plan on giving birth to my 2nd child there in early 2021. I have no experience with Kaiser L&D facilities, so I can't compare there, but I wasn't super impressed with the (non-pregnancy related) care I received through Kaiser when they were my insurance provider. I guess you might consider if you have a good rapport with a Kaiser OB already that you'd want to stick with, or if you're open to switching to a new OB that has privileges at Alta Bates? There is no one right answer, just the answer that's right for you and your family. Good luck with your decision!

I birthed at Alta Bates in August and had a wonderful experience. I was supposed to deliver at a freestanding birth center, but developed preeclampsia and was induced at AB. Despite that not being my original plan, the staff were incredible (including about a half dozen nurses and 2 midwives) and the room we were in was huge and very nice (and included a bathtub). The postpartum recovery room was small and outdated, but that didn't bother us much (and the nurses there were supportive and attentive). It's an older hospital, but I couldn't have asked for a better "plan b" experience. Good luck!

I had my first baby at Alta Bates and did not have a good experience. Ended up with a c-section after over 2 days of laboring. Two years later I had my second baby at Kaiser WC, a VBAC supported by a midwife and it was fantastic. I highly recommend Kaiser WC over Alta Bates.

I gave birth at Alta Bates in May 2018 and overall, had a great experience. My daughter came 6 weeks early, so needless to say, we spent a longer than expected amount of time there (two weeks to be exact!). All the staff I met and worked with helped to turn a very scary experience into something more bearable and reassuring. I found the labor and delivery staff to be generally warm and comforting, and for the most part, they did their best to cater to my needs at the time. I remember asking the nurses and on-call OB a bunch of questions, prior to and during my labor, and each time felt they took the time to explain what was happening. As mentioned, my daughter spent two weeks in the NICU and I spent a total of 5 nights in the delivery ward, which is actually more than I should have been allowed. Since I had a vaginal birth with no medical issues/concerns post-delivery, I was technically "discharged" after my second night (48 hours post-delivery) at Alta Bates. Yet, as my daughter remained in the NICU, I was beyond hesitant to leave the hospital, but my insurance was not going to cover me staying additional nights unless there was a medical reason. That said, one of the nurses was kind enough to inform me that I might be able to stay in one of their unoccupied rooms, as long as I understood that I wouldn't be formally treated as a patient (eg., I wouldn't get checked on by nurses, no meal deliveries, etc), but it would allow me to stay there and be on-site with my daughter, 'free of charge', as long as the rooms remained available (obviously if they needed the rooms for actual patients, I was prepared to pack up and leave!). Who would have thought?! On one or two nights, I actually ended up sleeping in the NICU next to my daughter's bassinet. I got to know so many of the nurses during my time there and I will be forever grateful to the medical team at Alta Bates, from the L&D nurses, the OBs, the NICU nurses, the pediatricians, the social worker (who checked on me daily), the lactation consultants (I could go on), as they were absolutely fantastic in helping me and my daughter get through that initial bumpy patch together. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to give birth there again.