OB in UCSF or Sutter for High Risk Pregnancy?

FTM here :) and deciding between UCSF and sutter (Alta bates) for a high risk pregnancy (also did ivf treatment at UCSF).


1. I did my ivf treatment at UCSF--i know people said it's less personal, very busy, and people don't have lots of time for you..and it took a long time to get appointments/questions answered. But I loved it (note it was during pandemic). Because I like having nurses/doctors--even if  i never saw the same person--- who are steeped in the literature and research, and can explain to me without talking down to me (I am comfortable reading journal articles myself as I'm a researcher by trade and I design research experiments professionally)

2. I hate the drive, always get carsick, so tried to go with an OB in Sutter. Well, I think my OB is fine clinically - but I was frustrated with our last 2 interactions, and here's why. i) first, my thyroid levels are supposedly suboptimal for pregnancy, but not terribly so ii) I'm at risk for pre-eclampsia.

My current OB in Sutter just went you know you have to take aspirin? okay just take it then. Then for thyroid issues, I said I haven't done research into this area so don't know anything about this. What is the problem with my thyroid levels and why does it matter for me and the fetus? She went straight into the worst case scenarios (mental retardation etc) while being really impatient. 

I was a bit alarmed, so went home to read the journal articles and I realized my level were suboptimal but certainly not really that extreme so was kinda annoyed after spending a few hours and days reading up all the different journal articles. 

Went to UCSF today, and i loved the clinician I saw today! She asked - what dosage I was taking for pre-eclampsia, and explained what dosage she wanted to adjust me to, and why based on the research (whereas the other OB never checked what dosage I was on..and when I dug into the journal articles it corresponds to what she says). She also explained SO clearly to me about my thyroid levels, what levels she would prefer me to be at, and at what levels they would actually worry about the impact to the fetus, rather than just on me.

The few things that makes me hesitant -

1) I've rarely avoided a doctor just for bedside manner, most of the time if I switched, its due to carelessness or I actually don't trust their clinical judgement. This time it's a bit more of a grey area.

2) the drive is awful, and the thought of going back weekly in third trimester because I'm high risk isn't fun :/

Are there OBs you've have locally who you trust who are keeping up with the latest research and can communicate clearly? 

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I strongly recommend doctor Amy Murtha from UCSF high-risk pregnancy department. She's the head of the department and truly a gem!

I hope there are others that can recommend a good OB for you locally! I had my twin babies in Seattle, so unfortunately I don’t have a contact down here. However, I had a very high risk pregnancy, (hyperemesis gravidarum, triplets for the first 13 weeks, pneumonia, blood clot, labor contractions starting at 21 weeks) and the good relationships I had with my OBs helped me get through every minute. You’re already being a super-mama. You not only deserve someone with competence and good bedside manner, it’s so important for you and your baby. The drive is a legit obstacle, but only you can decide if it’s a deal breaker. If you haven’t already, ask all your UCSF OB contacts who they would see in the East Bay if they had to find someone here. You may have an ideal pregnancy (I really hope the rest of it goes smoothly and beautifully for you!) but if you have any issues, you want someone who will find the best care for you and your baby, and you need to trust that you can work with them. I fought for every minute of my 35 week, 2 1/2 day pregnancy! None of it was normal! Ugh! BUT, I had 2 amazingly healthy babies at the end, and now I have 2 amazing 13 year olds, healthy and happy most days. I still wish my pregnancy had been easier, but I would do every hard thing over again for my kids. You are being asked a lot already, but you are already showing that you are an amazing mom; care for yourself and your baby. Push to find the best path for you and your baby, even if it’s not the most convenient path. Wishing you all the health through this process!


Hello!  I commend you on your drive to be up to date on the the current research. I wanted to let you know that I also had a negative experience at Sutter (not Alta Bates) years ago regarding my pregnancy.  I also had issues with my thryoid levels, but felt that instead of actually operating with sound medical research and data, they just made generalized statements, which were meant to provoke fear.  I never had an individualized approach.  The Sutter OB's, at the time, were always fearful of lawsuits and would get defensive if I even asked questions.  Also, none of my concerns were addressed, therefore, it resulted in my going out of the Sutter healthcare to get a 2nd opinion.  I am thankful that I did get a second opinion because I was tired of Sutter's fearful approach that made me go through unnecessary and painful procedures and inductions.  My background was in healthcare and I actually have worked at both Sutter  and UCSF.  For me, I regretted my medical care at Sutter, but this was years ago.  After hearing your experience, I am disappointed that the Sutter's mind-set has not changed.  I know the drive to UCSF is bad, but I would consider if the OB there is knowledgeable and can address your needs. I also believe an OB that does NOT have a fear mindset will be better because these fears will guide their final decision making process.  You said you "loved your clinician" at UCSF.  That speaks volumes on how comfortable you feel.  I would trust your feelings. I hope your pregnancy is uneventful  and happy.

Dr. Thomas at Sutter is great

I had my first baby at UCSF and my second at Alta Bates. I loved the OB care at UCSF, but during delivery, the hospital was very clinical and impersonal. I felt like no one was listening. Most of my bad experience could be due to the hospital being new (this was 2015) and nurses and docs were getting used to new equipment, but I didn't think twice about delivering my second at Alta Bates, closer to home. 

At Alta Bates, I saw several doctors (maternity leaves and there is more turnover there), but I actually figured its best to visit several docs since you don't know who will be on call when you deliver. I really liked Dr Kadri and have kept her as my OB. She was more experienced than some of the others (draws from personal experience, not just the literature and stats) and she is a straight shooter.  The care at the hospital was less "state of the art" and the rooms a little louder, but people just felt more accessible. Plus being across a bridge when my due date was looming was so stressful!

But FYI, if you need weekly/biweekly monitoring for your pregnancy (I did bc of gestational diabetes) and you DO stay with UCSF, they share medical records and you can do the monitoring at Alta Bates instead of driving over to UCSF.

Dr Kier van Remoortere at Sutter is amazing. Both in manner / communication style (very thorough and patient) and in commitment to evidence-based care. 

 I had my baby at UCSF.  I felt really safe having a high risk pregnancy to give birth at a world-class hospital with a world-class NICU across the corridor.  You never know what's going to happen during birth, I had an emergency situation and in two minutes I was in an operating room with fifteen incredible and highly trained doctors there for me. The OBs at UCSF were super. Because I also felt I needed more personalized attention I met with a local midwife Grace Bender throughout my pregnancy who does integrative care with UCSF. https://www.10moonsmidwifery.com/integrative-midwifery  She is incredible.  

The drives to UCSF are a hassle but my husband and I saw them as an opportunity to talk about the future and the pregnancy. 

disclaimer (I am an Ob at UCSF but also a parent in Berkeley, so I can only speak for UCSF)

I delivered three babies at UCSF while living in east bay, including a higher risk one where i had to go in weekly for testing. I  timed it to avoid traffic, but i am used to the drive

UCSF has a berkeley clinic for prenatal care. The ultrasounds and delivery would be at mission bay however.

Highly highly recommend high risk practice at UCSF.  I did IVF there and considered both Alta bates and UCSF for high risk and met with both.  The UCSF team was way way more versed in my challenges and my husband and I never looked back once despite a lot of trips across the bridge.  Delivery was great too.  Happy to chat directly if you have questions.

My experience with Sutter Milvia OBs throughout normal gyn care, a miscarriage and half a pregnancy was that they were extremely pressed for time and seemed to just need to get to their next appt ASAP. I had a couple concerns totally dismissed. When I got Covid while 19 weeks pregnant I couldn't even get them to give me a call, I just got really rote generic information via email after I insisted a doctor contact me. My primary OB Dr. Madhavan who I had seen for gyn and the miscarriage came into my 16 week pregnancy appt and said "Oh have you been here before?" That's when I knew we had to switch providers.

I saw the midwife Carol Tracy once and she was extremely nice and caring, but it doesn't sound like that's the level of care you're looking for with your situation. 

I hear you! It’s too bad that bedside manner and deep knowledge don’t always go hand in hand... sometimes it’s just being willing to try a couple of providers until you find the right fit— all kinds in both systems! I love Jill Foley at Sutter btw. Happy to chat more if it helps!

Cheruba Prabakar is the OB/GYN I began seeing last year and she’s quite wonderful. Even the receptionist said that’s who she sees. I recommended her to my bestie and she was quite impressed with her and grateful to me for encouraging her to see Dr. Prabakar. Her clinic is on Pill Hill in Oakland. Best wishes for a healthy outcome. 

I LOVE my UCSF doctors - and I have unfortunately seen several in varied specialties including Ob/Gyn Dr. Tami Rowen for a recent hysterectomy.  If you live in the East Bay you can now get care from UCSF doctors in certain specialties including OB/Gyn at the John Muir-UCSF Health Center on San Pablo in Berkeley.  It is there that I saw Dr. Rowen.  She was thorough, responsive, professional and compassionate. For twenty years I received care from Sutter doctors.  I loved my OB, but she left the group in 2014.  I was underwhelmed with my other Sutter interactions.  Over the years I found the visits becoming harder to schedule and more rushed and mechanical. Key issues were missed or minimized and ultimately the best move I made was to self-refer to UCSF specialists.  Good luck with your care.  PS:  The one shortcoming with getting my care from UCSF is that UCSF does not have a network of GPs in the East Bay and I wanted the care between my GP and specialists to be seamlessly integrated.  The opening of the joint John-Muir UCSF Center took care of that problem.  In fact, it was my new GP at John Muir (Dr. Elsa Tsutaoka - highly recommend) who referred me specifically to Dr. Rowen as the best doctor to address my issues.

If you need an MFM Dr. Michael Katz is world class. My kids wouldn't be here without him.

thanks everyone! :) I'm appreciative you took the time to respond!

I might consider trying the other doctors listed below in Sutter or just stick to the OB i saw in UCSF. I felt so safe with her :) I saw my sutter ob today (I forgot to cancel the appointment and then didn't want to be. no-show as that felt like terrible) but yeah it didn't work out.  I think I just need someone who makes me feel safe and can talk nuances based on research with me fluently without fear mongering. 

My two cents: I also used UCSF for my high risk pregnancy when I lived in Berkeley. It was worth it! I found that timing my appointments for the late morning (like 11:00 or so) meant that the drive to Mission Bay was not bad at all. This really helped mitigate the issue of driving into UCSF every week during the third trimester.

I recently delivered at Sutter Eden Medical in Castro Valley and could not have had a better and more caring experience. 
My OB is Dr. Wigginton and she is great! She’s an excellent OB who is also caring and personable. When it matters most she will call you and she will take her time to answer all your questions. She sometimes runs late but it’s because she doesn’t rush her patients. I trusted her 100% because of her expertise. 
Also her RN and MA are great too! Her RN is very knowledgeable and also extremely kind and gentle. 
The labor and delivery nurses at the hospital were veterans and so supportive. A few even came to visit me in recovery after my sons birth. 
I would highly recommend my team at Sutter. 

good luck!