Alta Bates vs. Summit Labor & Delivery


Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2002

I've read previous postings about delivering babies at both Summit and Alta Bates hospitals, but my husband and I are still in a quandary about where to have ours. In general, I've not heard terrific things about the quality of the staff and equipment at Summit. Then our pediatrician, whose office is right across the street from Alta Bates, told us that he felt Summit was not equipped to handle the ''things that go wrong in 1 in 19 births'' because they do not have a neonatalogist on staff. His example was a baby born with an umbilical cord around her neck that needed recessitation. Our dilemma is that the midwife we'd like to use, Laura Hooper, delivers at Summit. She feels Summit is less of a ''baby factory,'' is less interventionist, and is more respectful of midwives. She felt the comments of our pediatrician were unfair, as they do recessitations every day and have a team of perinatalogists on staff. What to do??? I don't know what perinatalogists or neonatalogists are. Can anyone offer knowledge about medical practices at the hospitals, or experiences with them that will help us decide what to do? Thank you! Christine

I had my baby at Summit 18 months ago. At the time, almost everyone else I had met who was pregnant was delivering at Alta Bates. My midwife delivered at Summit, so that's why I went there. I ended up having a C-Section since my baby was breach. I was very happy with the care I received there. I was there for 5 days and had positive experiences with all of the staff. One of the benefits of Summit over Alta Bates is that you almost always get a private room at Summit. I can't speak to the specifics of who is on call in terms of specialists in case of emergencies. I also heard from several midwives who have delivered at both hospitals that they prefer Summit since it's not a ''baby factory.'' Hope that is helpful! Debbie

While this may not completely answer your question, umbilical cord wrap is not a problem in birth. 3 of my children have all been born with either double cord wraps (neck) or incredibly tangled (shoulders, legs, torso) and neck cord wraps - one with a very short cord. The 3 with cord wrap ''problems'' were all born at home and none needed resucitation. You can run into problems when the cord is pinched or compressed to the point that no blood flow occurs, but that is determined during labor - not when birthing the head (assuming competent care). I would go where your midwife feels most comfortable and supported. Kathy

A perinatologist is a Dr. who specializes in high risk pregnancies. A neonatologist is a Dr. who takes care of new borns with significant problems (often preemies, I imagine). If you have a high risk pregnancy you may have a child that needs a neonatologist.

I gave birth at Alta Bates and not at Summit, so I can't tell you about the care at Summit. What I would say is that if you do have a high risk pregnancy (e.g. GD, pre-eclampsia, etc.), Alta Bates is really a good choice. It's not just that they have neonatologists and perinatologists in staff, but that they have them around the clock. I had pre-eclampsia and had to give birth there, and was very happy with the quality of the treatment I got. I consulted a perinatologist at least once, and my OBGYN consulted with them several times, and we got to talk to a neonatologist as well so that we were prepared for any problems our baby may have had (thanksfully there were none).

If you don't have a high risk pregnancy, then you probably don't need to be at a place like Alta Bates. Can you possibly wait to make your decision and see how your pregnancy develops? anonymous

I think I can clarify the concerns the pediatrician voiced regarding ALta Bates vs. Summit. Neonatalogists care for sick newborns, perinatalogists care for sick pregnant mothers/ fetuses. While all hospitals that deliver babies have the capability of resuscitating newborns, if the baby needs more care for a serious problem and is born at a hosptial like Summit that does not have a neonatal intensive care unit, they would need to be transported to Children's Hospital, and seperated from you. If the baby is born at Alta Bates, unless the problem is very serious, for instance if the baby needs surgery, they could be cared in the Alta Bates NICU. The same group of neonatalogists covers Alta Bates, Children's Hospital and Summit, but they are not in house at Summit. The degree of ''intervention'' you get as a laboring mom tends to be up to you and your OB/ midwife, not the hospital. If your baby is sick- you WANT intervention and preferably right there and then. Now most babies are born healthy, but that 1 out of 20 your pediatrician was referring to that there will be concerns about despite a normal pregnancy in his/her mind tips the balance to having in-house advance care for newborns, just for piece of mind. Just my .02 Anon

I would definitley not have my baby at Alta Bates. My son was born in October 2001. I went into labor and first off the advice nurse at Alta Bates came across stern and very unsympathetic. Even though I told her that I was having contractions but my water had not broke. I went to the hospital anyway. When I got there they had me walk for 2 hours meanwhile my contractions where about 2 to 3 minutes long. After I finished walking they had a nurse come in and she told me that in fact my water had broke some time ago. So the whole time I was walking I could have already been admitted to a bed. By then I was fed up the nurses were of no help. My nurse who I had for most of the night left before the birth of my son. I was left with a nurse and a nurses's assistant. They had me push for about 3 hours. By then they should have figured out the baby was not going to come out that way, but they had about 6 doctors and none of them had the brains to figure out I needed a cesarean. They finally had a doctor come in and she said I should have a cesarean. After that I went into surgery all of the staff there did not know what was going on, no communication at all on there part. Finally my son was born but he had been pushed so far down into my pelvis from my pushing that they had to push him back up to remove him from my stomach. His head was very cone-like because of that. The nurses rarely check in on you. I probably had about 6 nurses in my two days at the hospital. I constantly had to keep calling the nurses station to get ice-chips, juice etc... It would sometimes take them up to an hour just to get a bed changed. I was very unhappy with the room I had it was very uncomfortable and they could not get the heater or the air conditioner to work properly. I was either freezing or burning up. I would definitley not deliver at Alta Bates ever again. Anon

I gave birth to my daughter at Alta Bates last August and used a midwife (Jeri Zukoski) and had a wonderful experience. I'm not against interventions if needed, but had had a difficult first birth (at Alta Bates also) using an OBGYN and felt comfortable that if anything did go wrong during the second birth, I was at a hospital with the best care available.

It's true that there can be a lot of births taking place at Alta Bates at the same time and it can be a little stressful if you have to wait for a room (after my first birth we wanted a private room for the night and had to wait for a day in a semi- private room for one to become available), but I found that the nurses were wonderful for both of my births and would use the hospital again if I was to have another child (although I'm certain that will never happen, two is enough for me!) Diana

Having had only one baby, I can't compare the two hospitals, but I did have the unfortunate opportunity to learn a bit about neonatologists and perinatologists. I was at Alta Bates, admitted at 32 weeks with a rapidly progressing case of preeclampsia. My regular ob-gyn consulted with a perinatologist to determine how to manage my case -- when to induce, what drugs to use, etcetera. After I went into labor on my own a week later, a neonatologist came to L to speak with me and my husband about the risks associated with this degree of prematurity, the care and possible interventions we'd see our baby receiving in the NICU, and so on. This doctor was later one of the staff I came to know and hugely respect while our daughter was in NICU. Doctor for the at-risk pregnancy versus doctor for the at-risk infant: that's the difference between a perinatologist and a neonatologist, as I understand it.

Overall, I tend to agree that Alta Bates does have a somewhat interventionist ethos, but I know plenty of women who have had drug-free labor and delivery there. My care was excellent, though I have to say that the postnatal care wasn't quite up to the standard of the antenatal care. Maternity ward nurses seem to be more focused on babies than moms, and that was hard for me because my baby wasn't with me. However, I am so glad that I gave birth where I did, because had I been elsewhere, my baby wouldn't just have been in another ward, but in another hospital -- Alta Bates!

Wherever you chose to deliver, good luck, and I hope you don't have to undergo such an intimate education in the ins and outs of neonatology as we did. But as a footnote, our daughter is now eight months old and thriving, with nothing other than pictures to show that she was once a preemie. Alexa

gee, whiz. your doc, whose office is across from Alta-Bates wants you to deliver at Alta-Bates? If they couldn't deliver safely at Summit, they would have rates of bad outcomes to show it, which they don't. It is unprofessional for your doc to make up a medical pretext so that he doesn't have to drive. I'm familiar with both labor and delivery units because of my work (I delivered at Summit, there were problems, they handled them very well). You may end up with a complication, the question is: if you're at Summit will you wonder if your doc was right? BTW, Laura Hooper is well-respected by the Registered Nurses. That's always a good sign! anon

We just had our first baby at Summit 2 months ago. I had a c- section so we were there for 4 days and I thought the staff was great. What I really liked was that I had a private room so my partner could stay in the room with the baby and I, which for us was such an important time to bond. I understand at Alta Bates it is rare to get a private room so your partner would have to leave at 8pm, a big issue is you find yourself in an extended stay situation. We really liked a lot of the nurses, my labor and delivery nurse, a woman named Angie was terrific. She was a wonderful advocate for us and stayed past her shift to see me thru the c-section. Eventhough I had to have a c-section, for us the whole experience was a positive one. erin

I had two of my three babies at Summit. At first I was turned off, because my first baby was born at a very upscale hospital, and Summit seemed like such a step down. BUT, I was very happy with the nurses, all of the doctors, and my OB (who works with Laura Hooper). Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing, were nice and respectful, and I absolutely trust the opinion of my OB (Goldee Gross), who is one of the most professional and caring doctors I have ever met (and I have met many!). I would not think twice about having a baby at Summit. Twice At Summit

I had my children at Summit, and was very happy with the staff and treatment I received. My oldest son was born with pneumonia and was treated at Summit for the first week of his life. I had worked in neonatalogy research years ago, and felt they were fully capable of handling the situation. I don't know if the situation has changed from 8 years ago, but there were definately experienced staff who appeared almost immediately as we recognized there was a problem. Perhaps you should clarify with your pediatrician specifically what concerned them. FOSCtrails

We were going to have our baby at Walnut Creek Kaiser because we also thought Alta Bates was a ''baby factory'' and might be very cold. Plus, 60% of Walnut Creek Kaiser births are performed by staff midwives. I also was not excited about having to pay extra for a private room after delivery at Alta Bates (per my Kaiser insurance plan). Unfortunately, our baby turned out to be one of those 1 in 19 births your Dr. mentioned. We had to get to the doctor fast, so we went to Alta Bates because it was close. Boy, am I GLAD we ended up at Alta Bates! Our baby was born at 24 weeks. This was totally unexpected because I had no complications with my pregnancy, and I had given birth to an 8 lb., 12 oz. baby before. This time, I had emergency surgery minutes after I got to the hospital! My baby is still in the Alta Bates NICU at what will probably be a total of a 3 1/2 month stay. I have been treated kindly and with respect during EVERY dealing with the hospital staff. The post partum nurses were warm and sweet, and the accomodations were great. The NICU is staffed by some of the most amazing people I've met in my life. No concern of mine has been too small for them to consider and discuss. These people saved my baby's life!! I don't know how Walnut Creek Kaiser or Summit Medical Center are, since I haven't been there. But I do know that babies from Summit that are very sick get shipped to Alta Bates and Children's because they are better able to handle sick babies. When I think about the tenuous start my baby had, I am so glad that Alta Bates was where we chose to go. Imagine if I had held out to get to Walnut Creek Kaiser so I could have the natural birth I had dreamed of. I'm honestly not sure if my baby would have made it. Besides, I have nothing to complain about when it comes to Alta Bates. They've been fantastic. Good luck with your decision. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me Angie

First of all, a quick FYI...neonatologists and perinatologists do not do the same thing. Neonatologists are pediatric specialists who care for neonates (newborns). Perinatologists are OBGYN specialists who care for complicated pregnancies/deliveries. Perinatologists do not care for sick newborns; that is what neonatologists (and, in their absence, pediatricians) do. So if you are looking for a specialized MD to back up your midwife if something goes wrong, a perinatologist might help with the delivery. If something goes wrong after the baby is born, you need a pediatrician or a neonatologist.

My husband and I recently had a premature baby at Alta Bates and were very impressed with the care that we got from the neonatologists and nursing staff there. He was fairly healthy, but needed some help initially; and we were happy to have people able to care for him with appropriate ''interventions'' Good luck. LD