Alta Bates Labor & Delivery


Parent Q&A

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  • Hello, I am due to have my baby soon and I am curious what post-partum and nursing items items the hospital provides for free? I did their virtual tour and I know they have some items for sale, but others have told me not to pack certain things because they will give them to me like diapers. 

    thank you! 

    I last delivered there in Mar 2021 so someone else may have more recent info for you. But definitely bring multiple grocery bags to lug home all the stuff :)

    1. Bring your own blanket & pillow - for the delivery & post birth. You'll wanna be comfy! Their blankets are thin and pillows are flat/lumpy.

    2. What they provide for you (if you have a vaginal delivery): disposable underwear, pads, cold packs, perineum spray bottle, witch hazel wipes, large plastic water bottle - everything you need! Ask for extra supplies to bring home.

    3. What they provide for your baby: diapers, wipes, little formula bottles (if you're having issues with breastfeeding or decide not to do it - they were super pushy so you have to really advocate for this if your baby needs it), lots of swaddle clothes. Again, ask for w/e extras you need to bring home! 

    Good luck!

    Waiting to get discharged from Alta Bates as I write this. You don’t need to bring anything for baby while you’re in the hospital as they will provide diapers, wipes, swaddles, hand expression kits, nasal bulbs, hats, etc. Just bring an outfit to go home in as well as car seat. For yourself they’ll provide gowns, pads, mesh underwear, socks, etc. The only things I used of my own were changed into my own nightgown after 24 hours, socks, slippers. 

    our son was born at AB in november, they provided diapers, diaper ointment, breast pump & colostrum collection supplies, disposable underwear, pads, disposable cold packs for perineal recovery, a squeeze bottle for rinsing perineum, receiving blankets, a newborn hat, i think socks for me?? stuff we brought & used: the going home outfit for baby & the comfy clothes for me, a different squeeze bottle for perineum that had an angled neck because it was a little easier to use than the one they gave us, a friend gave it to me but i think it was frida mom brand; also used some witch hazel pad liners from frida mom for recovery. they also issued me their version of any meds i was taking as they didn’t want me taking my own meds from home, eg they gave me their flonase and claritin etc.

    During your hospital stay they will provide formula and bottles, swaddles, diapers and wipes. You’ll need a car seat and an outfit for your baby to go home in. I’d also recommend bringing pacifiers. They will provide you with gowns and everything you need to recover (disposable underwear, pads, ice). They also gave me a basic toiletries kit and towels. You’ll need masks, an outfit to go home in, a phone charger, any personal toiletries, a robe if you’d like one, and I would recommend getting depends. 

    I spent so much time trying to figure this out. Here’s what they provided when I gave birth there March 2020 & 2022: 

    Ibuprofen - they give a prescription 

    Stool softener - also give prescription

    witch Hazel pads

    dermaplast spray


    mesh undies

    perineum ice packs (these are great for at hospital but at home frida mom ones are better if you need ice. I swore my these my first delivery and didn’t touch them my second.)

    Peri bottle (frida mom one is better) 

    Extra hospital gowns 


    When my baby was in the nicu, they had a Medela pump and provided bottles and all the pump parts, plus any cleaning supplies. A lactation consultant can make you a little temporary pumping bra (basically a tube top with holes cut into it. I loved it and used it for a month until it fell apart). 

    hope that helps! Good luck! 

    Had a c section there 5 months ago. They will give you mesh underwear, heavy duty pads, an abdominal binder if you had a c section, a “peri bottle” for cleaning and soothing delicate areas….there may have been more that I’ve forgotten. They also sent me home with a GIANT bag of these items, more than I ever used, but not sure if that is standard or because I asked the nurse for a few undies and she went a little overboard haha. Hope that helps!

    Gave birth in Nov. 2022. AB provided:

    • Medela manual breast pump with two average sized flanges (I wanna say 24mm and 30mm?)
    • lanolin samples
    • Philips advent pacifiers
    • mesh underwear 
    • Menstrual pads
    • Blue disposable underpads
    • diaper cream
    • nasal aspirator
    • giant water bottle that they made sure was always filled :)
    • i asked for some ready-made formula bottles, and they gave me a pack of 4 or 6. Came in handy when hubs fed baby.
    • I asked for a gray washbin which I highly recommend, as I keep next to my sink to put baby’s dirty bottles and my pumping pieces until I have time to wash.
    • Did not provide diapers, but I also didn’t ask. Their diapers started at size 1 so I was glad I brought my own NB diapers.
    • they robed my baby in kimono top size 6-9(?) so glad I brought my own in NB size.
    • I took 2 hospital swaddles, and those have been handy for miscellaneous things where I didn’t want to use my “nice” swaddles.

    It's been a while since giving birth there, but I remember getting: many swaddling blankets (take as many as you need), diapers, chuck cloths, the squeeze peri-bottle (don't forget to take it home!), bulb syringes, thermometers, toothbrush & toothpaste, the hospital stretchy underwear, large postpartum/menstrual pads, a large plastic drinking cup with straw and lid for hydration, samples of lanolin, multiple hats & a cotton long-sleeve shirt for baby, a teddy bear, (specific to my needs: a nipple shield and some tiny syringes & tubing for feeding from the lactation consultant). I also received the breast-pump that I had previously ordered & is covered by insurance. I brought my own Dermoplast spray. I can't remember if they also gave me some. For my first baby, I wish I had brought a small amount of some kind of simple skin oil (to remove tape adhesive) and anti-itch cream. (I had an allergic reaction to the tape adhesive, which caused a huge welt up my whole back wherever the epidural line was. They got me some hydrocortisone cream but it took forever--because it was prescription--while lying around there.) Remember that Whole Foods is right across the way, so your partner or relatives can run to get simple things there in a pinch.

    I know that you are asking about physical items to help with the baby, but please don't miss out on the Alta Bates New Parent Support Group.  I cannot say enough good things about this resource and the woman who runs it.  It made a huge difference in my confidence, wellbeing, and happiness as a new mom.

    I gave birth at Alta Bates a couple of years ago, so I would be interested in an updated list. But when I was there last, they provided diapers, wipes, baby blankets, hat, mesh underwear, cold packs, tucks pads, large water bottle, baby formula, no-slip socks. I found the quality of everything to be acceptable. The diapers are pampers brand. They also had a breast pump and all of the bottling supplies needed to give the baby the pumped milk. I'm currently pregnant and most of what I am packing is for labor or what I want to wear going home. I will be bringing shower shoes this time.

    Hi. Congrats on your pregnancy! When I delivered at Alta Bates the items they provided were:

    For mom: perineal disposable ice packs, pads, peri bottle, disposable panties, witch hazel/tucks pads, Dermoplast spray, 32oz water bottle, colostrum collection kit, nipple cream samples, sitz bath

    For baby: Pampers newborn diapers, Sutter swaddle wraps, baby hats, baby formula

    Just press the call button on your bed whenever you need items or have questions if they have anything they can provide for your care or the baby. The nurses are very kind and quick to respond. You're also allowed to take home all these items related to your care and the baby.

    They gave me things like the really heavy pads for post partum bleeding as well as some disposable underwear. They give you an aspirator for the baby. They give you some baby blankets. They gave me some samples of nipple cream. I think there were a few other things. For all of these we found we could sort of take whatever we wanted. I asked for some extra pads when I left and they were happy to accommodate. 

    I delivered in Dec 2022, in addition to what others said they will also provide belly band if you ask them. And like others said you will get almost everything for the stay.

    Hi There - I gave birth to my baby at Alta Bates and the hospital provided a small amount of NB diapers, a handful of postpartum pads for bleeding, a peri bottle, a nose suction for baby and an awesome water bottle with a straw for me. I definitely supplemented extra supplies. Best wishes to you for a safe delivery ❤️

    I gave birth there in Jan. What they provide in the requested categories:

    post partum: mesh underwear, pads, witch hazel pads, numbing spray, stool softener pills, otc pain relief (tylenol or advil)

    nursing: little tiny lanolin sample packets, if you ask for them or the nurse remembers to give them

  • We gave birth to our daughter 4 years ago at UCSF Mission Bay, and the hospital photographer was amazing… I am not able to find any info on Alta Bates’s website, but anyone who has given birth recently at Alta Bates on Ashby Ave. - was there a photographer in the maternity ward? I’m especially wondering if they’ve been doing this with COVID restrictions in place. Thanks for any insights!

    I was there in November. Guests were not allowed and there was not a photographer available through the hospital. I did not specifically ask though, and policies may have changed! I had a photographer come to my home a few days later which was great. 

    I was there in May and didn’t see a photographer. I believe they now allow visitors that are vaccinated. 

    I gave birth in February and there was no photographer. I was permitted to have a max of 2 support people (including spouse) visit me. 

  • Our second child was born last month at Alta Bates in a straightforward delivery. We have a Blue Shield PPO policy with 20% coinsurance.

    The hospital bill was $19k and the physician's bill was $8k.

    Blue Shield made almost no adjustments to these bills and apparently paid over $20k.

    Our responsibility is about $5k.

    Does anyone else have a similar experience? Is it normal for Blue Shield to pay the full billed amount, rather than having a better negotiated rate (which would reduce our coinsurance)?

    I had the same experience in 2019. Same hospital and insurance, straightforward delivery. We paid 5k out of pocket without negotiating. :(

    Call your insurance to find out what your out of pocket max is for the year. I delivered at UCSF with anthem PPO and paid about $5000 unfortunately.

    This was what it was like for us with our first kid. We were able to work out a payment plan with Alta Bates and paid off the amount over several years. 

    Same situation as you but probably different insurance plan (though we also have a BlueShield PPO). Hospital bill was $27K, physician's bill was $8K. The EOB only lists the amount billed and they paid all of the hospital bill. It doesn't list an Amount Allowed or BlueShield Responsibility, etc, which seemed weird to me - I also expected there would be a negotiated rate. 

    In the end we were responsible for about $1K to the physician. TBH I don't totally understand how this was all calculated but was happy to pay the physician and be done with it. I hope you're able to get to the bottom of this without too much annoyance... and congrats on the new baby.

    I had vaginal birth, no interventions or medication beyond motrin and stayed a total of 30 hours from intake to discharge at Alta Bates in late 2020 and have UnitedHealthcare PPO. Here is a very loose breakdown based on claim summaries I just skimmed:

    Alta Bates - billed $15k, the plan discounted $1k, insurance paid $13k and we paid $1k

    Delivering Dr - billed $7.5k, plan discounted $0, insurance paid $6.5k and we paid $1k

    Baby Drs - billed $1.5k, plan discounted $0, insurance paid $500 and we paid $1k

    I have heard that you can call the hospital and negotiate down the amount you owe, but it's not something I've personally tried to do. I hope this helps!

    I have worked in provider contracting in other markets and I’ve found the discounts on Sutter’s rates horrendous across insurers in no cal. They’re essentially a monopoly in many places and no one seems to be getting good discounts from them. I paid double for an anatomy scan at Sutter what I did at a teaching hospital in Boston. It seems like a systematic problem. No advice just confirming your read of the situation. 

    It depends on the contracts in place behind the scenes.  Is Alta Bates a preferred provider for your insurance?

    If not, the limit for each billable item may be limited by BlueCross's interpretation of "usual and custom ary".  Call the customer service department of BC, or get a person from your employer's liaison engaged to have a fully itemized bill shared with you, and then an explanation for all the reimbursements.

  • UCSF or Alta Bates for planned c-section?

    (11 replies)

    Hi - I am pregnant with my second. My first was delivered outside of California via c-section after 28 hours of induced, unproductive labor. I have no interest in attempting a v-bac; I would like to schedule a c-section for my second (and believe I have that option since I am 35+). I am trying to figure out where to deliver - UCSF or Alta Bates. 

    I have had a great patient experience (for other matters) at UCSF, but the positive reviews UCSF delivery reviews all seem to speak to the birthing experience, great birthing suites, etc.

    Alta Bates is more convenient, but I've also heard more horror stories - though fewer about c-sections. 

    I would love to hear experiences of scheduled c-sections at UCSF and Alta Bates to help inform my decision of where to deliver. If you've had a positive Alta Bates or UCSF c-section experience, I'd also love to hear who your doctor was, as I'm flying blind. 


    Hi if you are planning a c section i would go to where is most convenient. The surgery will be faster in a non teaching institution and it will be closer to your home.

    Im with UCSF and can't speak highly enough of them. I just had a planned c section 3 weeks ago and the whole experience was a great as it could be. Amazing staff, lovely facilities. UCSF is also where other hospitals send their trickiest cases so you'll be in the right place if anything goes wrong.  My obgyn was Dr Lester who I love but another doctor, Dr Tushani Dimantha Illangasekare did my c section due to scheduling requirements, and she was also lovely. 

    Go for UCSF is my advice :) Mission bay is not so long a drive from east bay. 

    I had a good scheduled c section experience with dr. Lilia Lizano at Alta bates,

    I had a planned c section with Dr. Redwood at Alta Bates in early 2020, and my experience was VERY positive. Everyone was very professional and friendly, and I healed much more quickly than I expected to. 

    Other details - 

    -I slept more or less through the night the night before my c section. Such a nice part of having a planned c section. Went in around 6am, and didn't have to wait around long. Processes were smooth. Once I was in surgery, baby was born in 7 mins. 

    -Personally, I did not feel the need to take any opioids after the surgery itself - was able to stick to (prescription-strength) Advil and Tylenol. This was important to me, because I hate the groggy feeling of being drugged up, but I didn't feel like I was being "brave" and suffering through unnecessary pain either. I think it really speaks to how well the c section was executed and the team of nurses who trusted my instincts around pain management. 

    -I was able to take short walks by the end of the week, and I was able to go on short runs 6 weeks after my c section. 

    -My scar healed beautifully - no scar tissue that I'm aware of. 

    Good luck! 


    I had a scheduled c-section at Alta Bates this past march; my experience was fine. I think the most important component (b/c it's scheduled) is who will perform your surgery. My OB that I saw throughout my (complicated) pregnancy performed mine and that was made a huge difference to me. 

    I will note that UCSF is a nicer, newer building. Alta Bates is older & in need of a face-lift. Their food is also atrocious (I haven't tried UCSF's) - but there is a Whole Foods a few blocks away, so your partner can hopefully supplement pretty easily.

    Finally, regarding nursing staff and experience - some are fantastic, others are meh - as I would expect at most other hospitals as well. I delivered my first in the city at Mission Bernal and had to be transferred post-delivery to the new Sutter facility - and had some truly awful care there. I would not recommend them.

    All taken, if who delivers you is important, I would definitely consider figuring out where that OB / office has admitting privileges and go from there. As consistent with most practices, my dr's office always rounded on me and was the deciding factor in my care. I also found this comforting - while my actual OB never saw me, her team did and they were at least knowledgeable about my case (note I had a very complicated twin pregnancy, and developed severe pre-e). This is in contrast to being at a hospital where you're under the care of their OB staff (as I found myself when I was transferred from Mission Bernal to Sutter after delivering my first). However, if your OB team is not an important consideration or has dual admitting privileges, all things being equal - UCSF is probably a lot nicer, newer, and if you're lucky- has better food. 

    Best of luck-


    I had a scheduled c-section at UCSF and a VBAC at Alta Bates. Both great but UCSF is far superior in terms of the general facilities which makes the whole experience much more comfortable. Alta Bates was fine though and they are truly a "baby factory" so the nurses are very experienced and excellent. Typically you'd have to see an OB affiliated with UCSF to birth there which means prenatal appointments in SF which would probably be a deal breaker for me. For Alta Bates, my OB was through Sutter on Milvia in Berkeley and they were all great. Almost zero chance you'll see your actual doctor at delivery but all the ones I met during pregnancy and then delivery were great. 

    I noticed you also asked about physician - I saw Pantea Pahlavan at Sutter East Bay OB/Gyn. Couldn't have asked for a better dr or practice. Note that they're big, and while that was initially intimidating at first, it also means that anytime you end up in the hospital (I was in L&D triage a lot), they come see you - which is great, and someone from their practice will likely also deliver you (or do your c-section). All of the other doctors at her practice ranged from good to stellar. I've also have a number of friends go there for their care and have similarly shared positive experiences. 

    Feel free to reach out with any questions-


    I had a C-section at Alta Bates, unplanned but non-emergency, with Dr. Lizano in end of 2017. She is no-nonsense and wants you and your baby to be healthy and safe, so we were philosophically well aligned. She had another surgeon along with her and it was extremely uneventful. She also reminded me that you are allowed 4 days to recover in hospital with a C section (not sure if the pandemic has changed that), and that it was my job to heal and take my time. She practices alone which is good (you know your doc) and bad (I'm sure it's exhausting for her)-- she has a backup relationship with another doctor when she is out of town, but otherwise it's her that attends your birth. The nurses and lactation support were also fantastic. The only drawback was the food, but hey, you can't win them all. Congrats and good luck!

    Had a c-section at ucsf and was happy with the experience. Facilities seem far more modern and food options during your stay were way better (pre covid though so not sure if it’s changed). Alta Bates, I cycled through several obs and hands down Dr Nseyo is top. Competent and great bedside manner. Preference will always be a personality thing but sounds like lots of people like her a lot. 

    Birth and surgery

    I intended on giving birth at the wonderful Pacifica Family Maternity Center, but after 57 hours of hard labor and no progress, I made the decision to go to Alta Bates. After getting meds to ease the pain, get me to sleep, and allow labor to advance, I woke up several hours later. When I saw the surgeon walk in I knew. She and the rest of the nurses gathered around me to explain their reasons to recommend a c-section and the surgeon sat next to me and saw how scared I was. She said,"This is all I do. You are in good hands," and continued to reassure me that everything was gonna be fine. The rest of her team were supportive to the degree they allowed my midwife in addition to my husband to be with me during the surgery (they usually only allow one person). They played the music of my choice during the operation, and were very professional. I was very happy with my experience and truly felt I was taken care of by one of their best surgeons. I can barely even see the scar from the surgery now and the midwives were also impressed with how little it showed after surgery. 

    As much as I didn't want a c-section, we found out during the surgery that the umbilical cord was wrapped around both baby's arms like suspenders, so there was no way she was coming out naturally, and it also explains why the pain was so intense, but yet, no progress was made. So I was thankful that there was an option for c-section in this case.

    Nurses and postpartum care

    I also have to mention the amazing care I got from several nurses during my recovery. I had very good treatment, care and support from a lot of them, but in particular Cheka. When I was going through the hormonal peaks right after birth, she sat with me, holding me and encouraging me in the middle of her night shift - she had a great sense of humor and often filled our room with laughter. She continued to check in me even when it wasn't her round. I really appreciated her so much. There were others that were really kind too. They come in a lot (every couple hours) to check in, but you can put up a sign so they don't disturb you if you're trying to sleep.

    Recovery room

    It's worth mentioning that we were put in a remodeled room that was very nice, but you can tell it was designed by someone who didn't quite know what women go through after birth. The nurses also made comments on how far the sink was from the toilet and such and that they had offered feedback to the designers, but it wasn't taken. Hopefully, they've made some improvements by now - it was fairly new when we stayed there from what I gathered. The extra bed for your partner or other family to sleep was a plus (although COVID protocols might affect this).

    I know different people have different experiences, so I'm sure at any place there's a spectrum, but this was mine. It occurred in the fall of 2019, so I can't speak to how it is now. I hope this helps though. I've also heard great things about UCSF, we just happen to live in Berkeley and went through Pacifica Maternity. Best of luck and congratulations :)

    Delivery surgeon: Dr. Bonagura

    I delivered twins by planned c section in August. Our experience was extremely positive. I felt that the staff in surgery was extremely competent, the recovery nurse was amazing, and the nurses that looked after us during our stay were, for the most part very respectful, professional, helpful and kind. The lactation consultant’s at Alta Bates are amazing too. We had our own private room with two beds so my boyfriend could stay overnight and sleep. The doctor I had was Samantha Varner. But I think your surgeon depends on who your primary care provider is. I only had access to the doctors that work in the clinic that I go to. There is lots of hospital protocol that you have to go through which is kind of a pain but I think that’s the case at all hospitals. Alta Bates is very pro breast-feeding so if you don’t want to breast-feed you might encounter a little pushback, but in my experience the nurses were very open to letting me do what I want. I felt very supported at Alta Bates. 

  • Cord Blood Banking @ Alta Bates

    (5 replies)

    It seems like the newest info on BPN on Cord Blood Banking is from almost 4 years ago.  I wonder if there are any updates and/or reactions as to the utility of storing privately and/or donating the cord blood.

    I noticed that the BeTheMatch website does NOT list Alta Bates as a participating provider, so I don't know what options are out there.  There doesn't seem to be anything of interest listed on the Alta Bates website as well.

    With private banking, I see there are options for "lifetime" storage as low as $3000 dollars and change to as high as $8000 and up. 

    I'm not sure if this is universally true, but I think based on our birth experience at Alta Bates in 2017, the thing they do now is let the cord blood transfer to the baby before cutting it. I remember being confused by the cord blood question (bank or not?) before our son was born, like it was listed in some parenting info, but then it was hard to figure out what to do, but I don't remember the details. So you might try asking your doctor or the hospital staff about what the latest health recommendations are for cord blood to decide if you actually want to do it or not. We delivered with the midwives at Alta Bates, so maybe they would be helpful? 

    I used Via cord in 2001.

    I just delivered at Alta Bates in January 2021, and asked about cord blood donation and they said it’s not an option. 

    I delivered at Alta Bates in May 2020 and asked my OB about their policy on cord blood banking. She told me they did not pair with any public bank for donations, but if I had a kit they could accommodate. Unfortunately, I was ineligible for donating and did delayed clamping instead.

  • Second support person allowed in L&D?

    (2 replies)

    Hi! I heard from a local Facebook Doula group that Alta Bates will start allowing a second support person in the delivery room starting 3/2/21. Does anyone know if this is true? My Dr was not able to confirm. Thanks!

    Hi, I happened to have an OB appointment yesterday and it IS true (for now - the OB said it's subject to change at any time as things evolve).  Here's what the OB shared with me (again, she warned me things could fluctuate):

    "At this time we are allowing 2 support people for our labor and delivery and post partum patients at Alta Bates. Both may be present at the same time, and both must be adults. The 2 designated support people must remain the same for the entire stay. The following rules apply to all visitors: 

    1. All visitors should wear a Sutter-provided procedure mask (personal cloth/other masks are not allowed) once inside the facility and for the duration of the visit including in the patient's room.
    2. Visitors must remain inside patient rooms.
    3. Visitors are asked to limit comings and goings to the hospital to twice in a 24 hour time period
    4. A visitor may be asked at certain times to step out of the room if deemed necessary by the doctor or primary nurse.  In these instances, the visitor will be directed to wait in a designated waiting area.
    5. The cafeterias will NOT be open to visitors, so please be sure to bring food. A cooler can be helpful for your room. Whole Foods is easily accessible on Telegraph and Ashby if you need to re stock. You can also order food to be delivered. Patients will continue to provided regular meals at the hospital."

    FYI to others reading, this is now true for Kaiser. 

  • Birth at Kaiser WC vs. Alta Bates

    (21 replies)

    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 :) 

    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.

  • Alta Bates birth during Covid19

    (10 replies)

    Hi, wondering if anyone here has given birth at Alta Bates during Covid19 times and would be willing to share what it was like? We're due in a few weeks and have all kinds of questions, like if we'll be allowed to leave the room at all, if a mask will be required during labor, how my partner will get food, etc etc. 
    Thanks so much! 

    Hi! I gave birth on April 6 (admitted the 5th and discharged the 8th) and this was my experience.  When we entered they took our temperature and gave us masks. We were asked to stay in our room the whole time with masks on. All nurses and doctors also had masks. During labor I seem to remember wearing a mask. Haha. During recovery we had a whole room to ourselves so my partner was able to sleep on a hospital bed. Again, we were confined the the room. I didn’t wear a mask then because I wanted baby to see my face but I did put one on when folks came in. I think there is one opportunity o leave per day but my husband never left. We brought food and a hot water heater. He did go to the cafeteria one say but that didn’t count as exiting. Also? The parking garage has a three day pass but check to see if Berkeley is actually ticketing because you may just be able to park on the street.  Hope this helps.  Good luck! 

    Hi, I gave birth at Alta Bates about 3 weeks ago. At the time, we had our temperature checked when entering the hospital, but I think they're now having laboring patients tested for covid-19 upon being admitted as well. I was told we were supposed to wear masks during labor, but I ended up taking mine off at some point (my husband kept his on the whole time). Now with testing, I think you don't have to wear a mask during delivery if you test negative. We both wore our masks in postpartum every time someone came into our room. 

    I was told we weren't allowed to leave the room – both during labor and in postpartum. My husband did leave a couple of times to go to whole foods and pick up food delivery. He wasn't given food by the hospital, but I've heard that they'll give partners food if you ask such as basic sandwiches and snacks. 

    Despite covid-19 times, my experience at Alta Bates was really positive. The staff/nurses were amazing and so helpful. 

    I'm scheduled for a c-section tomorrow morning, and can let you know about my experience once we get back. I know that currently Alta Bates only allows one support person and they have in/out privileges (I think) twice a day.  The same support person is designated throughout the hospital stay.  They are testing all pregnant women for COVID.  Not sure about masks.

    I'm a NICU nurse at a different hospital in the same network, and I may be able to give a little insight.  Before I went out on leave, our hospital allowed one support person in the hospital.  The support person could only leave and come back once per day.  I believe they made all laboring women and visitors wear masks, but at that time we weren't testing anyone who was asymptomatic.   Our cafeteria was open, and you had to meet your food delivery driver outside the hospital.  

    I'll try to remember to check back and update, but feel free to message me if you don't hear from me.  Might get a little forgetful having a preschooler and newborn at home.

    I'm interested in this as well.  I'm planning to deliver there in July.  

    I did find this on their website re: masks

    CloseDo I have to wear a mask during labor and delivery?

    You and your support person will need to wear a mask upon arrival and when leaving the hospital. You will not need to wear a mask if you and your support person are alone in a private room. We do ask that you put masks on while our healthcare providers are in the room, though masks are not required during active labor and delivery. We appreciate your help in maintaining safe patient care.

    I gave birth at AB on 3/31. We had a really positive experience. We felt safe and well cared for. We were not allowed to leave the room, though my husband was allowed to leave to get food. They may require masks now; they didn't when I was in labor. Because the hospital is not allowing visitors, it was very quiet and serene. Again, all in all, it was a very positive experience.  

    Hi! I just delivered at Alta Bates at the end of April, two weeks ago. Your partner can leave the hospital once daily to get food/do what they need to do. You can leave your room to walk the unit, but must wear a mask. You do not need to wear a mask in labor, but you do in prep. And, we did have one nurse ask us to wear a mask in our room whenever she came to check vitals. Hope that helps! 

    I gavd birth end of March at Eden which is another East Bay Sutter Hospital. I had a Cesarean so I'm not sure about the masks for your labor, but we weren't asked to wear them in our room. One person could be with me and it couldn't change, so not one qt a time but only one person. My husband could leave once only, he was provided all his meals from the hospital since he couldn't leave but the nurses did say if we wanted to Doordash or similar they could meet the driver outside. We didn't really leave the room but that was pur choice, but we were allowed to go with the baby the few times she went to the nursery.

    Hopefully that was somewhat helpful,, i know I was worried what it would be like with Covid19 but if you have specific concerns I'd call the Alta Bates Labor and Delivery or your OB office to find out what the rules are now.

    I gave birth at Alta Bates last week. They gave us masks but weren't super strict about me wearing it the whole time. They checked both our temperatures when we went in and even though neither of us had a fever they tested me for Covid19 in the L&D room (but not my partner). They told us we wouldn't be able to leave the room but then did encourage us to walk around the halls at one point - it might just depend on who your nurses are and how busy they are. They mentioned that we could get food delivered and meet them at the entrance, or go to the cafeteria in the building for food, but we didn't end up doing either. They have premade sandwiches they'll bring your partner upon request, and honestly they're better than most of the hot meals they brought me, so I ended up eating those as well. I'd recommend bringing some snacks with you, so you have more options. Overall the experience was definitely different due to Covid 19 but not majorly so - the nurses were really great and understanding about balancing necessary restrictions with keeping me comfortable. The main thing to be aware of is that they don't allow you to use nitrous right now, so that limits your pain management options.

    Feel free to reach out directly if you have any other specific questions!

    I just gave birth at Alta Bates. Like others are saying, we had to wear masks whenever someone was in the room. I brought a cloth mask from home that was way more comfortable than the issued N95. I did wear it all the way through labor. During the actual delivery, the doctor and nurses were suited up in full protective gear. Despite all the precautions, the hospital felt very peaceful and the entire experience was really good. 

    Not Covid19 related, but our car got broken into in the parking garage (thankfully, they didn't take the car seat and there was no broken glass). We usually make sure to conceal everything in the car but probably left some things out in the hurry to get to the hospital.

    Thank you everyone so much for your responses. We found all of this information very helpful!

  • Hi all,

    We are first time parents to be! We were hoping to hear of people's experiences with OBGYNs (considering Sutter) vs Midwives (considering Golden Oak, and higher out of pocket cost to us).

    Both options would involve delivery at Alta Bates.

    Our ideal birth would be natural and unmedicated (although we get that things can happen and are open to changes).

    Thanks so much in advance! 

    Hi!  I can only give you my experience with Sutter/Alta Bates because I just delivered with them (baby born 4/6).  My OBGYN was Dr. Cohen with OBGYN partners and my whole prenatal experience was wonderful (I had a very easy and normal pregnancy).  The office is organized and professional, the app (MyHealth) is useful, and longer wait times were rare.  My doctor never seemed in a rush and was always very reassuring.  I, too, wanted an unmedicated birth and while that did not happen for me (41 week induction, epidural, vacuum assist) I always knew what my options/choices were and I felt in charge.  I never felt like I wasn't actively participating in my birth experience.  I want to say I did a TON of my own self-education through reading, podcasts, etc. so I felt comfortable advocating for myself and my baby.  The nurses at Alta Bates Berkeley in both Labor & Delivery and Postpartum are all incredibly kind and competent.  There's one nurse in particular who was so reassuring and motivating that I think her encouragement actually prevented me from needing a c-section.  Of course, you'll run into nurses you LOVE and some you feel lukewarm about but all the nurses/doctors are highly skilled.  I hope that helps!

    Working with Golden Oak will be the best thing you do! They are amazing. 

    I used Sutter for my 1st pregnancy (ended in induction, c-section) and then a midwife for my other two pregnancies. I used Golden Oak for my 3rd kid. Everything about it was night and day from Sutter. Sutter you see a rotation of doctors through pre-natal care and while you are the hospital. I almost always had to wait for my appointments because they were behind schedule. Some doctors were okay and others I didn't like, but you don't get a choice who is there when you deliver. 

    Golden Oaks is very personal, you know who will be there, you don't have to wait for appointments to start. They were able to help me with getting the maximum reimbursement from my healthcare possible. I think if you want to try an unmedicated birth than going with a midwife practice is a good option and they are a great practice. 

    Hi there!  I had my first baby last June with Golden Oak, and had an absolutely wonderful experience: I felt understood and cared for throughout my pregnancy, and went from being someone who was afraid of childbirth to that annoying lady at the party who won't shut up about her empowering birth.  I think you could have a very positive experience with Golden Oak, Sutter, or any other provider, so long as you trust whatever provider you have and feel safe with them.  One way I do imagine my experience would have been different with an OB, however, is that I went to 42 weeks and Gwen and Ellie had me try inducing with castor oil a few days before my scheduled induction at the hospital.  It worked, and I am beyond grateful that I was able to labor at home and have the calm, intervention-free birth I wanted.  If I was with an OB practice I'm skeptical castor oil would have been suggested to me (not sure about that, of course) and I would have ended up on a pitocin drip and my story could have turned out very differently.  Happy to exchange further private messages if you have any questions! 

    Congratulations! We worked with Golden Oak, and they were wonderful, including dealing with several complications and ultimately a c-section. We appreciated their thoughtful approach, having more frequent visits, knowing who would be at the birth, and connecting with their community of families. Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to chat more about our experience. 

    Hi -  I'm working with Golden Oak and Sutter concurrently until after the anatomy scan and then I'll make the choice about who to go with for birth. GO was supportive of the concurrent care. I'm not set on any type of birth but I was attracted to the community aspect of GO and to know exactly who would be in the delivery room. I like my Sutter OB but I'm thinking that I will want more personal care towards the last few weeks. Not sure I can answer your question since I'm in the exact same spot but I do find it's a lot easier to get in touch with GO than with Sutter.  

  • Due to the failed negotiation between Cigna and Dignity Health, I now have to look for a new hospital as my twins will not be covered (even though I will be). Debating between Alta Bates in Berkeley and John Muir in Walnut Creek. Looking for some recommendations and recent experience. Especially those who twins that have delivered at either/both. Thank you! 

    I had a singleton at Alta Bates in October and had a great experience. I was working with their midwives for my care but it ended up being a long and complicated delivery, including vacuum and emergency c-section, so I worked with the OBs on staff as well. The care was excellent. With a longer hospital stay than anticipated, the nurses were fantastic and full of helpful tips and advice for first-time parents. Considering how challenging the birth was, I couldn’t have been happier with my experience. 

    I gave birth at Alta bates in November (not twins though!). I had a long labor so went through 4 shifts of L&D nurses and I can say they were all great. I was really impressed. I eventually opted for an epidural and the anesthesiologist did a great job too. The post labor facilities weren’t super nice and I found the nursing and other support to be more variable there. We didn’t have any complications so I have no experience with the NICU or surgery aspects. 

    I don't have twins, but I did deliver my first at Alta Bates (in 2012) and my 2nd at John Muir (2019).  I had positive experiences with both hospitals and staff.  The facilities in both are also wonderful with John Muir having more updated facilities and more options for family members (like bigger waiting areas, better cafeteria & Heather Farms is close by if you want to bring little ones there to pass the time).  Both hospital staff respected my birth plans & that I wanted to save the placenta to make placenta pills, they were both very supportive and attentive while I was there & it was important for both hospitals that the mother and baby bonded right away and breastfeeding was established. 

    One difference was (and I don't know if this is a hospital or insurance thing) I did have a follow up home visit with an Alta Bates nurse after I gave birth and I don't remember scheduling the visit when I was at the hospital.  I think it was part of the "package".  It was actually really nice that the nurse came to my home to check up on me and I didn't have to plan a trip out of the house.  I don't know if JM offers that service, but I definitely recommend you have that home visit!

    I highly recommend you take the hospital tour before deciding.  Also consider the distance of the hospitals to your home.  Alta Bates was a 10-min drive from my home when I lived in Oakland and JM was a 15-min drive from my current home.  When you're in labor, you want to get to the hospital as quickly as possible!

    Good luck and congrats!

    I don’t have twins, but the labor and delivery experience at Alta Bates was fantastic. The postpartum treatment was inconsistent at best, but during my labor I felt extremely supported and encouraged. I would definitely return.

    I delivered at Alta Bates 18 months ago. It was great. Barring one bad baby class teacher who was militant about her methods, the people were friendly, the experience positive, the facilities clean and most important - the nurses were stellar. We had a fantastic nurse who was just wonderful with my daughter. 

    We ended up in the one large room post delivery which was also great. Shower was a little old, but at that point I could care less. 

    The triage nurses were also wonderful when I needed to stay past the 30 minute window for a whole host of reasons. 

    definitely would say you’d be taken care of here. I’m sad Alta Bates will be no longer soon...

  • Nursery at Alta Bates

    (5 replies)

    I will be delivering a baby girl tomorrow at alta Bates. (c section). One of my friends recommended that I should have the baby taken to the nursery during the night so that I could recover during the early days in the hospital. What are the pros and cons for doing that vs keeping the baby in the room with me? Also does Alta Bates have donated breast milk in case my milk production is not sufficient for the first days? Thanks! Rebecca

    Alta Bates doesn’t have a nursery, though in my experience the nurses will sometimes take a baby if asked for a few hours and bring them back to nurse. It depends on how busy they are and the particular nurse. Agree that it would be great to have a nursery as an option, though - as much as I loved the idea of keeping baby with me the whole time, the extra rest post c-section would have been much appreciated and useful to recovery! 

    Congratulations! It depends on how you feel and what your baby is like. I don’t see why you need to decide this now and each night can be different. Some newborns are quiet and sleep a lot and others ( like mine) cry all night and want to be held. I sent my baby the first night because I needed to rest and she needed to be held and I didn’t want to worry about falling asleep while holding her. I loved holding her and looking at her but knew that I didn’t want to leave the hospital running on no sleep ( I had already been up for days with my labor). I also have a partner who needs his sleep and was a bit too overwhelmed to take her at night at the hospital. I don’t know about donor milk at the hospital and my milk didn’t come in until after we left the hospital but they can bring the baby to you every few hours to nurse if you request that or they can give the baby formula. Good luck with everything!

    I had a baby at Alta Bates in July of 2019 and sending the baby to the nursey was not an option the hospital readily provides.  I did the birthing class at Alta Bates beforehand and the explanation we were given is that Alta Bates is a "rooming in" hospital and that babies are thus kept with their mothers at all times.

    After the second day in the hospital and having gone 36 hours without sleep I asked if our baby could be taken to the nursery so I could get at least an hour of sleep.  They took him but returned him 15 minutes later saying he was crying and keeping the other babies up.  Best of luck!

    I have also heard there is a nursery but that it's not advertised-- when I delivered there 2 years ago they did not volunteer sending my daughter over to the nursery and I did not think to ask. However, meeting moms afterwards it sounds like there is an option to give you some quiet if you are having trouble with sleep. It might be worth calling and asking if that is still the case, just so that you are mentally prepared as to whether there is an option.

    I was in 4 days after my c-section and I think rooming in really worked for me. My husband was able to do all the diaper changes and getting up/down while I did the nursing. If he was not there, I know that a nurse was always available. It also allowed us to get the hang of things by having to do them over and over again without a break, for what that's worth.

    Thanks so much for the amazing answers. They took my baby girl a couple of times in the morning and she was kept at the nursing station for one of those times, according to my husband. The nurses are amazing at Alta Bates , If only they could make those beds a bit more comfortable.... Glad to be home and recovering!

  • Hello all,

    I haven't seen this question posed yet and hope I am not repeating something already answered. I would appreciate hearing people's experiences with planned c-sections at Alta Bates in Berkeley. How did you feel the c-sections went? How was the medical team? How was your stay at the hospital in recovery? Was your OB/GYN supportive? Would you recommend a different hospital (our insurance is with Sutter Health) for a planned c-section? Any recommendations on supportive OB/GYNs would be greatly appreciated as well.

    - Fan of all childbirth options

    Hi there, congratulations on expecting a little one! I had a semi-planned C-section at Alta Bates about 4 years ago, and it went very well. I say "semi-planned" because the date was indeed planned, except that I started having contractions earlier and ended up going to the hospital prior to the scheduled date and had the C-section right away (my baby was breech, and apparently very few hospitals in the area, except perhaps UCSF, will even attempt a breech delivery). I was happy with the whole experience. Dr. Rudd is the doctor who opened me up, and everything went well. We spent 4 days at the hospital, and the care during these days was also very good (well, there are very good and not-so-very-good nurses, of course, but I'm sure it's the same everywhere). A C-section is major surgery, so expect longer recovery times compared to "natural" delivery. Compared to many of my girlfriends, who recovered physically within days or perhaps a couple weeks - it took me three months to start feeling like myself again (not aching too much, feeling like I could move around without too much trouble). Of course, everyone is different - I may just be slow at healing... But it is definitely a factor to consider, especially if you do not have that much time off of work. Now that I am expecting my second, I am again planning to deliver at Alta Bates (I like most of the OBs there) - and even though I'd like to try for a VBAC, I won't be as distressed if I have to do a C-section, since I know the process and I had a good experience there. Good luck! 

  • Hi Everyone, 

    I'm a first time mom due in March 2017. My current obgyn is with Golden Gate Obgyn in SF, but we've moved to Berkeley and I don't fancy driving across the bridge for the birth. So I'm on the hunt for a good doctor to take things over in the East Bay. All the reviews I've found on here have been for doctors in Layfayette or Castro Valley - I'm hoping there is someone a little closer to home that I can switch to. My insurance is United Healthcare PPO. It seems that if I want to deliver in the East Bay, Alta Bates will be my best bet, but if anyone has other suggestions, please let me know. 


    Hi--I have had great experiences with the Sutter East Bay Medical Group of OBGYNs ( I have been going to Dr. Poddatoori for years and love her, but any time I have seen another doctor, they have been great as well. They work as a group and the doctor on call may not be yours (which is why I try to branch out a bit now that I am pregnant again to meet other providers.) I had my first child at Alta Bates and the doctor on call was not my own, but the experience was still great! Good luck!

    I highly recommend Dr. Van Remoortere and Dr. Poddatoori at Sutter East Bay. I've seen them the most, but Dr. Thomas from the same practice delivered my daughter and that was also a good experience. Like the previous reply, everyone I have seen there I have been happy with.

    I live in Berkeley and still delivered at UCSF Mission Bay. If you really like your doctors, I wouldn't let the bridge scare you. I absolutely loved UCSF hospital, and am so glad I chose it.

    I have also been happy with Sutter East Bay Medical Group of OBGYNs (  I'll be delivering in +/- a month but so far everything has been good.  I've seen Dr. Thomas and Dr. Rudd the most.

    Thank you so much ladies. I really appreciate the information. I have an appointment at Sutter East Bay Medical Group of OBGYNs with Dr van Remoortere in mid-October. :) 

  • Giving Birth at Alta Bates

    (4 replies)

    Hi Everyone,

    I was wondering if those who have given birth at Alta Bates recently could share their experience there. I will most likely need a c-section and my preliminary research is showing service is lacking there, perhaps because they will be closing? If so, I am looking at CPMC and John Muir or any other non-Kaiser suggestions, as I have Blue Shield insurance.

    Thanks! I'm due in February and will be a first time Mom. 

    I had a c-section at Alta Bates in March, and it was a great experience. (My first was breech, also a c-section, and this was my second birth). The nursing staff were great, from checking in with labor and delivery to the post surgery care. I feel a little guilty about how easy everything was ... really great care. I don't know where you live, but Alta Bates is really he only place in the "inner" East Bay for c-section delivery if you don't have Kaiser, and I can't imagine driving into the city to deliver. Also: I think the grand plan is to eventually, in the next several years, to move the staff for labor and delivery from Alta Bates to another Sutter hospital (Summit). The staff would be the same. Really, the only bad thing about the whole experience was dealing with the terrible parking garage.

    Good luck.

    It's been a few years since I delivered at Alta Bates. But, I wanted to share that I had a very positive experience with Alta Bates. I gave birth twice there as a surrogate and I found them to be wonderful managing our less than typical situation, which included same sex parents, court ordered instructions about filing the birth certificate and child custody. We had great experiences both times! Good luck to you and your family.

    I just had my first baby at Alta Bates a few weeks ago, and while our experience was difficult (unexpected induction and extremely LONG labor), we have nothing but praise for the L&D team. We were in L&D for 3 and a half days, interacted with 4 or 5 different doctors and probably 10+ nurses, and aside from 1 or 2 nurses whose bedside manner was somewhat lacking, we were very impressed. The team worked very hard to keep us informed of our options as our situation changed; they did everything they could to accommodate us and preserve the last shreds of our birth plan; and they were uniformly caring and kind. We did not have a great experience with postpartum nurses (bad and somewhat patronizing communication about our concerns around procedures/protocols for our baby's care) but that was probably due at least in part to how sleep-deprived and raw we were from our birth experience. Happy to go into more detail if you want -- contact me.

    I had a good experience at Alta Bates 2.5 years ago. The nurses in both L&D and the post-delivery unit were so great that I wrote a letter to management about it. My daughter had to spend 48 hours in the NICU as well and the staff there were also fantastic, except for one nurse I didn't like - but that's life. Overall a great experience and I have no reservations about the plan to deliver my second child there this January. 

  • I'm taking a job with a new employer, and they offer either Kaiser, or a PPO or HMO plan with another insurance company.  I'm trying to decide between them, and the main consideration is whether it would be better to see the perinatal doctors at Kaiser Oakland, or the doctors at East Bay Perinatal Medical Associates (now called UCSF Benioff Children's Physicians) and deliver at Alta Bates.  Honestly, I'd prefer a provider who would be willing to consider a VBAC, and even see if I could deliver at a birth center with a midwife (the non-Kaiser insurance plan may cover that), but not sure given my preeclampsia from my previous pregnancy and my age (36) that any birth center with midwives would accept me.  The Farm in Tennessee would be ideal, but I unfortunately don't have the money to go there.  Would there be a similar place here in the Bay?  And any recommendation on Alta Bates vs. Kaiser?

    I had Kaiser. Then at 32 weeks, I switched to Blue Cross and began going to Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. Despite clearly top-notch doctors, I found my overall care worse than at Kaiser. Scheduling was challenging as the doctors' schedules were full; appointments were expected to be very short; and they were often running behind, leading to long waiting room waits -- all of which sounds minor, but starts to add up when you have weekly appointments. It also felt like it was my responsibility to make sure I was getting the care I needed. (I even had a few moments of worrying I might simply not fit into any doctor's schedule, and then what would I do?) In fairness, perhaps this would've happened when I needed weekly appointments at Kaiser, and/or perhaps it would not have happened if I hadn't switched late -- maybe they would've scheduled me in advance for all those weekly appointments in weeks 37-41.

    At Kaiser, the process of getting infertility treatment, being handed off to a regular OB, and getting access to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to discuss prenatal testingfelt seamless. I felt like they were caring for me at Kaiser -- finding the expert I needed and getting them to call me -- whereas I was having to fend for myself, find the doctors I needed, and leave multiple voice messages via the PPO model. Appointments also seemed to run on time at Kaiser. The only part that was frustrating with Kaiser was getting scheduled for an ultrasound; for some reason, it was hard to get on that calendar, especially as we wanted to do it on the earlier side. Ultimately, we went to their Walnut Creek facility.

    I have not heard birth stories from Kaiser, so I can't compare the birth experiences. I can say that at Alta Bates, I had great nurses, as did my friend. Alta Bates has a Level III (highest level) NICU, which was good to know, though we didn't end up needing it. The giving-birth part of my experience felt much more integrated than during prenatal care -- a number of specialists dropped in (e.g., a lactation consultant). Overall, I thought the birth experience at Alta Bates was excellent.

    I have been with Kaiser for almost 60 years.  They had some bad times in the long past but now they are great.  ESPECIALLY in neo-natal issues.  I had my baby at 30 weeks and he was in NICU for 5 weeks but everything was absolutely perfect.  Excellent care.  Kaiser is well-known for their maternity and birth care.

    I highly recommend Kaiser. With my first pregnancy I had a PPO plan and a complication-free pregnancy, and delivered at Alta Bates via c-section after a failed induction. The second time around I had Kaiser and gestational diabetes. The OB who provided my prenatal care was supportive of my desire to try for a VBAC and a midwife-assisted delivery, which fortunately worked out beautifully at Kaiser Walnut Creek. I've had pretty positive experiences with Kaiser San Leandro, Oakland, and Union City as well. Good luck!

    this is from NYT article April this year

    . "Many studies of American home birth show that planned home birth with a midwife has a perinatal death rate at least triple that of a comparable hospital birth. (The perinatal death rate refers to the death rate of babies in their last weeks in the womb and first week outside it.) 

    The problem is that there are two types of midwives in the United States. The first, certified nurse midwives, called C.N.M.s, are perhaps the best-educated, best-trained midwives in the world, exceeding standards set by the International Confederation of Midwives. Their qualifications, similar to those of midwives in Canada, include a university degree in midwifery and extensive training in a hospital diagnosing and managing complications.

    The other, certified professional midwives, or C.P.M.s, fall far short of international standards. One 2010 study of midwives published in The Journal of Perinatology found that home births attended by nurse midwives had double the neonatal mortality rate of hospital births attended by nurse midwives, while home births attended by C.P.M.s and other midwives had nearly four times that rate.

    This second class of poorly trained midwives attend the majority of American home births. And yet they are legal in only 28 states; in the rest of the country, many practice outside the law. They used to be called “lay midwives” or “direct entry midwives,” in recognition of their lack of formal medical schooling. That didn’t sound very impressive. In a brilliant marketing ploy, they created a credential — the C.P.M. — and awarded it to themselves. Many receive their education through correspondence courses and their training through apprenticeships with another C.P.M., observing several dozen births and presiding at fewer. How woefully inadequate is this education? In 2012 the requirements were updated to require proof of a high school diploma.

    C.P.M.s would not even qualify as midwives in other developed countries. 

    You're already high risk. Good luck but be very cautious about a midwife.

  • Alta Bates (2nd) birth with no drugs

    (4 replies)

    Hi all,

    I'm due to give birth in a few months at Alta Bates, and have Dr. Radhika Madhavan as my OB. I'm looking for recent birth experiences at Alta Bates, and I'd really love some reviews of Dr. Madhavan. It'll be my second baby, and my first was a relatively easy hospital (different city) birth that was drug and complication free. I'm looking for the same, but I don't know Alta Bates, and I don't really know this doctor. Have folks had positive experiences at Alta Bates, where you got to labor as you wanted, good nurses, competent compassionate communicative doctors? Thanks!

    I gave birth at Alta Bates 8 weeks ago. I moved to the east bay midway through pregnancy so I also had to change docs and deliver at a different hospital than my 1st.

    I had a great experience with Alta Bates. The nurses were very attentive and supportive throughout. Seemed like a very well oiled machine, similar to CPMC. The deliver rooms are comfortable.

    You may not have Dr. Madhaven deliver your baby. Depends on who is on call at the time but it will be someone from her practice. Dr Madhaven was on call for me when I first arrived but had another doctor deliver my baby (Dr Assan). My usual OB is Dr. Jewell. All the OBs I have interacted with at that practice have been very helpful and nice.

    Hope this helps.

    I may be a bit biased since I'm an obgyn and I trained with Dr. Madhavan, but felt I had to reply. She is an AMAZING Doctor! I would trust her under any circumstance.  She is so thoughtful about her patients- I know this because of our work related conversations. She is highly skilled, really loves her patients and often goes the extra mile for them. She is completely supportive of natural births. I would see her myself if my insurance would let me. Best of luck in your pregnancy- I hope you have a wonderful experience and a healthy baby!

    With that practice you really have no idea who will deliver your baby, unless you have a scheduled c-sec. I was in the hospital from Monday to Wednesday and never saw my regular OB because she wasn't on call. 

    Alta Bates was good. If you want to labor without drug you can let the nurses know and they will try and place you with nurses that are interested in supporting that. They also have a few telemetry units, so you can walk around while laboring. 

    I have been very happy with Dr. Madhavan. I have had a very complicated and stressful pregnancy. She has been there with information and support every step of the way. I had my first child with Kaiser and then my work changed insurance carriers. So when I found out I was pregnant I had to find a new doctor, and I have to say I have been happier with Dr. Madhavan than I was with my doctor at Kaiser, who was my doctor for over 5 years. 

    I am set to deliver in about 8 weeks and feel I am good hands.

Parent Reviews

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When we were there in October 2020, the L&D rooms and nurses were great and energetic and everything you could want. The postpartum experience was horrific, though. Old, small rooms with no air conditioning during fire season (so the windows couldn't be opened) during a pandemic. The postpartum nurses seemed worn out and tired and unhelpfully suggested "keep the door open" to everyone, so everyone was treated to crying from all the other rooms. Just a suboptimal experience. This would all be fine if they've renovated the postpartum unit by now. If not, I couldn't really recommend--especially in the summer--if you have better options.

You got plenty of responses about Alta Bates but nobody has been real in detail yet, so I will add my two cents. I delivered my first at Alta Bates in 2019. The L&D nurses were renowned and lived up, mostly, to their reputation. I loved them all except one who in my mid-labor rage I requested to leave. The transition to postpartum nurses was JARRING...nearly traumatic. I went from feeling like I was in a cocoon of attentive, loving, collaborative care to...I don't know the proper analogy, but a word cloud might include: cold, bleak, dark, disconnected, etc. There WERE kind nurses but nearly all were ESL so the communication wasn't as intimate. The care FELT (not saying it necessarily was in reality since how much competence is required to come in and hand me meds, check my pad, etc.) half-hearted, haphazard, disjointed, just ugh. Not warm & fuzzy like L&D AT ALL. So however, I DO think this is a common experience based on what kind of skill & talent is represented by those two different nursing departments (obviously L&D is a pretty elite team, while postpartum felt like I was being babysat begrudgingly), so not sure this is unique to Alta Bates. 

I delivered Twins at Alta Bates August 2020 £.2120. You do have to switch rooms after delivery. The rooms for recovery are really nice, large with two beds and a bathroom and big windows. The nurses were pretty great,A couple of them are kind of annoying. I felt like we all got excellent care there.

I had a great experience delivering at Alta Bates after a birth center transfer. I was nervous but felt it was the ideal hospital experience all in all. 

I did get transferred after delivery (which I believe is standard) but found the room comfortable and spacious enough for our 48hours of antibiotics! Please feel free to reach out with any other questions! 

I delivered at Alta Bates in November. The nurses were really great and attentive. Food is bad (but lots of delivery options nearby). Delivery rooms are small, dark and old, but our recovery room was very large and spacious with tons of natural light. Seemed like new construction. Personally I think the convenience of being close by outweighs seeing a specific doctor, but that is a very personal decision. 

I gave birth at Alta Bates in 2018 and at CPMC Van Ness in 2021 and lived in east bay for both. Alta Bates did move me to a new room after giving birth. While I very much liked my doctor and convenience of Alta Bates, CPMC was a better experience for me.


CPMC is in much better condition and the facility is actively being invested in vs. Alta Bates. The delivery and recovery/postpartum rooms were cleaner and more comfortable.

I personally had a better, more consistent experience with the nursing staff at CPMC.

While I hope this is never anyone’ s situation, should your baby need surgery shortly after being born, CPMC NICU does that on site and they have nice rooms for parents visiting their babies who are staying in the NICU. I moved from Alta Bates to CPMC because we thought my baby may be born with a condition requiring surgery shortly after birth and an extended NICU stay. Had he been born at Alta Bates and needed surgery, he would have been transferred to Oakland UCSF Children’s Hospital, and while that is a fantastic hospital, a transfer would have added risk to his condition at only a few hours old and would have meant we would have recovered in two different facilities. I was not ok with the possibility of being in a separate facility from him while he had surgery and recovered, so that made my decision where to give birth very easy.

We were incredibly fortunate that my baby ended up not needing surgery or a NICU stay, but we did stay at CPMC for several days due to jaundice and the pediatricians were wonderful and staff very accommodating, so I was still very happy with my decision to give birth and CPMC.

The drive to and from the city for appointments was A LOT especially at the end for my twice per week antepartum tests. Tolls and time spent driving ultimately adds up and felt physically taxing at the end. My husband went to only a couple appointments with me in the city since the drive was so much. It ultimately comes down to what is most important to you.

I delivered at Alta Bates in Nov 2020. I had a great experience. The rooms are not fancy but totally fine and I had a room to myself (as did others I heard from) so my husband had a hospital bed to himself post-delivery. We had great nurses both in labor and post-delivery. 

We had a small private room for labor (with a couch for my husband to sleep on) and a private bathroom, then a bigger room with a private bathroom (with the two hospital beds) after delivery. 

Alta Bates is an old hospital and the rooms are not as nice as what you'll get at CPMC or UCSF. However, all of the staff I interacted with at Alta Bates were so amazingly kind. I preferred my second delivery at Alta Bates over my first at UCSF, even though UCSF had the nicer facility. I made the trek from Berkeley to UCSF for the first half of my pregnancy, but I realized it was silly and as the appointments got closer together it was downright exhausting to travel into the city each time. I also didn't want to be so far away from our first kid while I was away delivering the second.

I've never heard of a hospital *not* switching rooms after delivery. There are specific delivery rooms and postpartum rooms and you'll most likely be switched unless you go to a birthing center.

Overall I was pretty happy with my experience at Alta Bates. only 1 kid so no points of comparison. 

To your specific questions:

  • They do switch rooms after delivery. 
  • Personally, I didn't think the recovery rooms were nice. Obviously, nice is so relative. I thought the rooms were small but the bathrooms are what I really disliked. I was also there for like 4 days (which felt so long) due to C-section and jaundice that needed a NICU stay.  If I have another baby, I will probably go to John Muir (I am in Orinda)

Just had a baby two weeks ago at Alta Bates and thought it was great! All our nurses in both labor & delivery and in postpartum were super supportive, kind, and knowledgeable and everything seemed very well-organized. We didn’t like the experience at triage but otherwise everything was good—there was a nice courtyard garden you are allowed to walk to during L&D if you are mobile, they provide helpful things like an exercise ball and rocking chair if you want to try different positions, and I found the rooms to be more spacious than I was expecting. I’ve never given birth anywhere else so can’t compare, but I felt lucky to be at Alta Bates.

I delivered in Alta Bates in early June and was very happy both with my OB care throughout pregnancy (I primarily saw Dr. Madhavan, but also had appointments with Drs. Taub and Kadri). I also had a very positive birthing experience there. All of the care providers were exceptional, from the doctors to the nurses. The facilities are dated and the food sucks, but I would highly recommend delivering at Alta Bates and hope to deliver any future children there.

RE: Lactation Consultant ()

Georganne Walker is absolutely the best. Last I heard, she had office hours at Alta Bates. Good luck.

I delivered with Lilia Lizano a few months ago, and I've had a very good experience with her both getting pregnant and delivering. She is probably in the last few years of her practice, and is therefore very experienced. We had a minor scare during my delivery that resulted in us needing a C-section, and she helped me confidently move through that decision and get my daughter out within 30 minutes. I also saw Debra Levinsky a while back, for what was ultimately unfortunately a miscarriage, so she did my D&C, and although she can seem a little gruff at times I can tell you she has excellent bedside manner when it counts. I use Berkeley Peds (Dr. Sam Woods) for my daughter, and all of the doctors there are great and rotate through Alta Bates for management after your baby is delivered. I loved alta bates, like another person said, the building is older but we got a private room and my husband got a real (albeit a little stiff) bed to sleep in during my 4 day stay after delivery. The non-breakfast food is pretty bad, but no place is perfect! The nurses there are just unreal in how great they are with the new moms, and they have a full staff of lactation specialists, so I got to meet with a lactation specialist every day I was in the hospital (so 4 visits!).

Berkeley pediatrics are AMAZING. For OB, I had a wonderful experience with Debra Levinsky, but she's not for everyone (very direct, not so touchy-feely). Whoever you get, make sure you deliver at Alta Bates. I too came to the Bay Area in my 7th month and at first the facilities seemed really outdated, but in truth it's a boon (private room, often a real bed for your partner too!) and the nurses are just beyond wonderful. They deliver dramatically more babies than UCSF and the other hospitals in the area and it shows in the quality of care.

I delivered both of my children at Alta Bates and had great experiences both times.  Like you, having a private postpartum room was very important to me, and I was fortunate to have a private room both times.  Had I had to share a room, I perhaps would not have had such a positive experience at Alta Bates.  All of the nurses that I had (L&D as well as postpartum) were very kind, knowledgeable and gentle.  They did not mention a word about epidurals until I brought it up, and once I did, they worked quickly to get an anesthesiologist to my room.  I was given a lot of support on breastfeeding after delivery.  An extra plus was the proximity to Whole Foods and the restaurants on College as my family could easily bring me great take-out.  All in all a great experience.  If I were you, I would take the tour of Alta Bates and strongly consider it, and not just because it's close and practical.  

I had a great experience delivering at Alta Bates, and in my view, a friend's delivery there was also great (i was there for the entire thing). They were very helpful in minimizing interventions and handling the needed ones skillfully. Neither of us had to share our post-partum rooms; we used the second bed for our partners. It's also very convenient to a few places to buy food (like Whole Foods) if your partner doesn't want to eat hospital food. I don't know how Highland compares. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Labor and Delivery- Alta Bates Berkeley v. CPMC 

Feb 2015

I recently moved to the area and am in my early third trimester. While I live in Oakland, I commute regularly to San Francisco so CPMC may be an option. The postings on Alta Bates Berkeley are a bit dated. Any thoughts on recent experiences with either hospital? Thanks. Katie

Hi Katie, I delivered at CPMC December 2012, just over 2 years ago. When I arrived at the hospital, they checked me and saw I was already 6 cm dilated, and immediately put me a in a wheelchair and brought me to a delivery room. I was so relieved they realized ''This is the real deal!'' I was probably at the hospital for like 4.5 hours before I gave birth, but until it was push time and an OB joined us, it was just me, my partner, and the nurse in the room. And she was in and out, and really left me alone, which is what I wanted. I just wanted to labor with my husband. She stayed in the background, helped when needed, and helped me to the toilet towards the end, which was her trick to make my water break (it did). She was so calm and hands off, and I was so impressed I ended up bringing her a gift weeks later. When my water did break, there was meconium in it, so they had the NICU team called in, in case something was wrong and they'd have to aspirate the baby. But I swear they knew how to disappear, because I did not hear or see them when I delivered, even though they were in the back of the room. The baby was fine, and the NICU team just evaporated. The baby was put right on my chest. No one ever asked if I would accept drugs or an epidural. It was written in my birth plan that I'd like to avoid them if possible. I felt very well taken care of. The only complaint I have was there was one nurse who during our stay came into my room in the middle of the night and kind of scolded me about something (of which I now can't remember). But overall, I really loved it and highly recommend CPMC. I did not have a doula. And my midwife was off the one day I gave birth, and still with the OB I had, it was excellent. Best of luck to you! Minna  

Two years ago, for my first baby, I was working in San francisco and had just moved to Oakland, so both my doctor and her hospital of choice were at the city (CPMC). My friends who had delivered there had long and medicated deliveries. My doctor told me that if my contractions came outside of hours, she wouldn't be there to deliver the baby. Those two facts and the fact that I didn't want to cross the bridge and deal with traffic and tolls while in labor made me research AltaBates.

I changed my doctor to a midwife and, boy, was I happy with my decision. Alta Bates rooms were great. I delivered in a private room where I spent the day while waiting for contractions. It was a short, unmedicated, natural birth just like I wanted, but I knew I had a hospital support in case there were any complications (I'm not that young). All the nurses were amazing, both during and after labor. My baby was with me the entire time and the food was tasty. They arranged a cot for my husband in my room (not the most comfortable but decent).

My only two negative experiences were that even though I had signed in online, they couldn't find it and made my husband sign me in again while in labor (we had time and it was not a big deal) also, I delivered at 10 pm but didn't go to my postpartum room until 1 am, but according to hospital/insurance deals, they claimed that night was my first night and wanted to get me out of there a night earlier (my midwife said no and that was the end of the story. No big fight). Overall, I loved it and my second baby is also coming to AltaBates in two months. Good luck. Happy Bates Babies

I delivered at CPMC in March 2010, and June, 2014 at Alta Bates. I lived in Oakland in 2010 but delivered at CPMC because I tried to change doctors at 30 weeks and couldn't find an OB that was taking late stage patients. This is going to sound hard to believe, but there really wasn't that much difference between the two. Nurses were terrific in both places. There were some nice little things at CPMC like the steak dinner the night before discharge, but trying to get across the bridge in labor would be no picnic.

My recommendation would be to find a doctor near home (Alta Bates) if possible. In CA, you are qualified to go out on disability four weeks before delivery. Do you really need to shlep all the way into the city for doctor's appts if you're not working, particularly at the end? Practical Mama

UCSF Birth Center or Alta Bates

Sept 2014

I am a clueless Brit and am 27 weeks pregnant now (having survived a rather rocky
introduction to US healthcare so far!) I am supposed to be giving birth at Alta Bates, but
I really want to have gas and air (nitrous oxide) and a water birth. This is what I did
last time around and it did the trick as I was relaxed, serene and most importantly, as
high as a kite. I had a long but straightforward 48 hr labor (including pre-labor) last
time and although I am hoping it will happen a bit faster second time around I really
don't fancy doing it with no pain relief on offer other than hardcore drugs/epidurals.

I found out that UCSF offers nitrous oxide, but I'm not sure about water births. My health
insurance covers both Alta Bates and UCSF. I live in Alameda. In your experience where do
you think would be my best bet, Alta Bates or UCSF?

Thanks so much for helping out a hapless foreigner. Clueless Brit 

I'd go with UCSF if you can. I did not have a good experience at Alta Bates. I used to work at UCSF, and the level of nursing care far surpassed what I experienced at AB. anon

Dear Clueless, I am laughing, and not because of nitrous oxide. Have you been in the Bay Area long enough to notice the traffic? Second baby will probably come much faster. We lived 2 miles from Alta Bates and after a perfect slowly progressing labor made it along a small stretch of highway 13 to Alta Bates with only13 minutes to spare in the Labor Ward before giving birth. Never plan to give birth anywhere where you will be stuck on a bridge/ferry/anywhere without traffic exits etc. en route. I barely got a bed to deliver in. Not a clueless Brit any more.

I delivered at UCSF in March and had a fantastic experience -- absolutely top notch doctors and nurses. I didn't use it, but I know that gas is available. As for water births, there are bathtubs in the delivery room bathrooms that you can use to labor in but my understanding is that you must get out of the tub to deliver. I'm also not sure whether they would allow you to be in the tub while you are hooked up to gas. You may end up having to decide which you prefer, gas or a water birth, as I think you may have a hard time finding a place that does both. Good luck to you! Happy UCSF Mom

I had both my kids at UCSF and would recommend them, though I had a terrible midwife the second time around. I didn't know they offered nitrous! I know there is a jacuzzi in the birthing room, and I was encouraged to use it, but I don't know if you can give birth in it. You know, you've just got to tour both facilities. You can call both: Alta Bates - (510) 204-4444 UCSF

I'd be scared to have to get my butt into the city while in labor, though. Oh my gosh. I went SO FAST the second time, if I had been stuck in the least bit traffic, I'd have a baby named Sutter or Folsom right now.

So I'm also a newish Brit immigrant living in the East Bay and had our daughter at UCSF last year. Similar to you, I wanted gas and air and ideally, a water birth. I also wanted a midwife-led model. I'm really glad I went with UCSF but there are a couple of things to think about. If we had a second I might consider giving birth in the east bay were in not that it would be a high risk pregnancy (UCSF is indisputably the place to go for high risk, multiples etc).

- UCSF are one of only a handful of hospitals in the US that do nitrous. I had a whole tank to myself and sometimes wish I still had it when my toddler goes all banshee on me.

- The birthing suites have tubs but while you can labor in them, you have to get out to deliver. TBH they're a bit clinical - hospital toilet, fluoro lighting.. not what I had in mind really. I didn't stay in it for long. Besides, they couldn't fit the massive tank of nitrous through the door

- they absolutely respected my birth plan and didn't raise an eyebrow about the whale music, LED candles, chanting.. shaman etc... Seriously, they were really good about NOT immobilizing me and letting me labor in my own way. I gave birth on all fours and did not even see a stirrup. - a nice young man did pass by soon after I checked in to offer a dazzling array of Class As and was very nice when I declined and didn't pressure me or make me feel silly

- the midwives are fantastic, most of all Judith Bishop who is a bit of a midwife celebrity. She is wise and reassuring. I adored her. But in the end I didn't see any midwives when I gave birth because they're not there 24/7 and I of course delivered my baby during the rare times they aren't about. - they let me go right up to 42weeks without trying to freak me out. They were just very vigilant. I went in for nonstress testing every day at the end. Luckily my insurance covered the astronomical cost.

- my only gripe is that I think they cranked the pitocin too much. I accept I did need 'a whiff of pit' as they put it, but I don't think I needed so much so fast. So if you deliver there (or anywhere) I'd suggest you put it in your birth plan that they should tell you every time they want to 'crank the pit' rather than sneaking in and twisting the dial quietly while you're eating chocolates and watching your shaman do the booty clap.

The main reason I'd consider the east bay if there were another time is that I now know what active labor is like and have the fear of being stuck on the bridge in heavy traffic. There is a way around this though - some small hotels around UCSF do let heavily pregnant women rent rooms to labor in, so you can go over before things seriously kick in.

Welcome to SF and good luck with your pregnancy! Kelly

Alta Bates vs. UCSF delivery

Feb 2012

So, at Alta Bates I have to go with a ''mega'' doctor clinic where I get the ''on-call'' doc...which they all seem fine. Or I can travel over the bridge and deliver at UCSF with a midwife. Can you please give advice as to which was a good (or bad) experience?? I have had a previous natural birth and that is my plans for the next. Thank you PJ 

Although this is an unlikely scenario for you, I personally had a premature delivery and hence we had a 2 and a half week stay at the NICU before finally going home. (Well, they discharged ME after 3 days, but I spent almost all of my time at the hospital). Thus I was really, really glad that we were at Alta Bates and not having to make our way across the Bay into San Francisco and back every single day. For what it's worth, I was at one of those huge practices-- I had a very long delivery and hence saw a number of the doctors during my time-- I loved almost all, disliked one. But, really, it was the nurses who seemed to have so much more impact on my experience in labor than the doctor's per se, who generally just pop in, and then make their appearance for the big moment. So, despite how it seems on the outside, I didn't find it to be a bad system. --fan of alta bates

I had a natural birth at Alta Bates, and can't say enough positive about the nursing staff. We'd hired a doula to try to help keep the medical stuff to a minimum, but really, the nurses there were so much more helpful and knowledgeable and respectful. The birth was straight forward, so I did not need any medical intervention, and no one insisted on IVs or drugs or anything. It is important to have a good doctor or midwife, but really the doctor is there for the crowing and birth. All of the labor of a natural birth is overseen by nurses. At Alta Bates, they were truly wonderful. Happy Mama

I delivered at Alta Bates with a midwife and doula. Nurses were great too! Couldn't even imagine being stuck in bridge traffic during labor. Alta Bates Mama

PJ, I think you need to have a better understanding of what you're asking before you will find the right information. Alta Bates is not a ''mega doctor'' clinic that determines who you're going to see for your delivery. Alta Bates is a hospital, and they have a Women and Infants Center where you can deliver your baby That is probably determined by your insurance carrier and their medical group (if you're on an HMO) under which you're subscribed.

Your OB-Gyn and doctor's group (if part of one) is who determines who you will see at your delivery. You need to communicate with your caregiver find out if she/he will be there for your delivery, or if a different (on-call) doctor from the group might be there because of timing. Furthermore, if you do a little bit of research, you will find that Alta Bates does have midwives who they work with and can help connect you with who deliver at the hospital. I suggest you visit the website and gather information

I'm due with my first child in 7 weeks and will be giving birth at Alta Bates. So far I've had nothing but excellent responses to all of my questions and concerns from people there when I call for information. I am working with my doctor to clarify my personal birth plan and how she (and her group) and I will work to make final decisions when our big day comes. Your concerns sound to me like they're mostly a result of either misinformation or no information, and I think your entire birth experience is going to improve when you are better informed. Good luck in a safe, healthy and happy birth for your baby. -EM

I have to compare the two hospitals from two different experiences. I delivered both of my kids at UCSF, while I supported two different friends delivering at Alta Bates. So my experience with UCSF is much more personal. I should also say that I am a former L&D nurse.

I can certainly say that my experiences at UCSF were amazing and I highly recommend UCSF to women in the Bay Area seeking a natural delivery in a hospital setting. I absolutely love Judith Bishop and Suzanne Seger (both midwives), but saw all of the midwives at one point or another during my pregnancies. The Faculty Ob/Gyn Group is a unique combo of maternal-fetal medicine docs (read: high-risk OB) and midwives. They hit on this formula years ago and it seems to work really well, both for caring for patients along a wide risk spectrum, as well as for teaching residents. If you prefer midwifery care, you will have the option of scheduling all of your appointments with a midwife. You are also very likely (though not guaranteed) to be able to deliver with a midwife when you go into labor. Should you experience any complications during the pregnancy or labor, you can be reassured that you are in excellent hands, but if you have a normal pregnancy, you can also be reassured that the UCSF midwives and (even more importantly, IMHO) the nurses are going to support you in going through the process as naturally as possible. I delivered my first after 24 hours of pitocin-augmented all-natural labor with the support of an AMAZING nurse (without whom I would not have been able to do it) and my second after a breezy 4-hour all-natural labor. The two deliveries were night and day, but both wonderful.

Another bonus at UCSF: you can get nitrous during the pushing stage, which I found took the edge off during my first delivery, though I didn't need it the second time around. UCSF is a teaching hospital, so you will work with residents during your delivery and post-partum stay. I found the UCSF Ob/Gyn and pediatrics residents to be uniformly excellent; I think the model of having midwives included as teachers of medical residents means that UCSF residents are more familiar with and supportive of natural labor than many.

The only downside of UCSF is that it may be a bit far for you: I am assuming you live in the East Bay. Your second baby will likely come a lot faster than your first, and you may not like having a bridge in between you and the hospital. You or your partner may also find it inconvenient in the post-partum period.

My experience supporting friends at Alta Bates was not a great one. Both times my friends ended up with on-call MDs whom they'd never met (may be a bad coincidence) and one of them ended up with a horrendous episiotomy that I think was totally old-fashioned and uncalled for. However, neither of my friends would characterize their experience as negative; this was just my perception as an outsider. Also, neither of them were working with midwives. The midwife experience at Alta bates may be totally different. Love UCSF midwives

I don't have any firsthand experience with either (I'm a Kaiser patient), but I believe UCSF is the only Bay Area hospital that will let you deliver a singleton baby who is breech vaginally (most hospitals here will let you deliver twins vaginally as long as the first baby is vertex). I have a couple friends who have had to have c-sections because their babies didn't turn, so it's something to consider even though you'll have to decide before you know if this will help you or not.

Hello, sorry for the late response but I just saw your note re: UCSF vs. Alta Bates delivery. I had both my kids (now 6 & 9) at UCSF when I lived in SF and I absolutely loved it. I actually switched to UCSF at 35 weeks pregnant with my son, mostly because I felt that UCSF would be more supportive of a natural childbirth than CPMC (my previous hospital) was. I also switched in part because I was very interested in nitrous oxide as an approach to pain.

When I was there, the midwives pretty much ruled the show from 9-5 each day, then OBs took over at night. Since my labors were long I got a bit of everything. Each individual personality varied, of course, but all in all I was very impressed by the calibre of the medical staff. Some details, such as the skill with which a midwife or OB supports the perineum during crowning, can make a huge difference in pain & tearing. No episiotomy or other unwanted interventions were pushed on me throughout the process.

I personally love and adore the teaching hospital environment but you do need to accept that there will be a lot of people around - med students etc. - and certain procedures may be done more thoroughly than necessary in order to give students a chance to learn. For example I think I got more of that post-partum stomach ''massage'' than I needed! And at times it felt like a parade of people were putting their hands in my ying-yang! Lastly, the hospital is on a hill and the labor rooms are on the top floor, from which you can see the Pacific Ocean. For me there was nothing more comforting than having a look at my beloved ocean during labor. Good Luck!

I delivered at UCSF in 2009 and it was not a great experience. In fact, I think I had PTSD for a while afterwards. It is a good place in a high-risk situation but NOT for routine care and the resident on call and the nurse were pretty uninvolved until minutes before the delivery. I highly recommend a doula no matter where you deliver because no matter who is on staff, you have a support person and advocate that speaks up for you and helps to keep you on your desired birth plan. The midwives at UCSF only work during business hours during weekdays. During my hospital stay, student nurses seemed overwhelmed, were not helpful in lactation guidance and several were rude. One threatened to not discharge my son and contact CPS if my son lost any weight (he was almost 9 lbs!) since it would be considered ''child endangerment'' when that was not true (a pediatrician told me the next day). She advised me to stay up all night to force him to eat so he would not lose any weight. In short, the experience was very stressful and scary and took away from my joy. I have heard the nurses at Alta Bates are great but the doctors seem to do many episitomies and C-sections. You have to do your own reasearch beforehand to avoid as many issues as possible. Good luck! anon

I delivered my first daughter at UCSF, and my second at Alta Bates. They were two very different birth experiences because of what happened in my labor, but I still have some good info for you. I chose UCSF because they offer (or they did in 2002) self-administered nitrous oxide for pain relief. It is terrific, because at the very height of your contraction you can inhale it, and it wears off in seconds without affecting the baby. And you can still push. That said, I was pushing for three hours, and they would have given me a C-section if my doula hadn't made them give me a ''last chance'' and then yelled and coached me into pushing her out. They are respectful of your birth plan up to a point, I guess is what I'd say. A minus at UCSF is that since it's a teaching hospital, there are lots of extra people who pop in and out of the room. Which might not matter much if you aren't in labor for 18 hours. A big plus at UCSF is that the labor and delivery rooms are spacious, and have beautiful views. We were in the corner room and got to sleep in there with our new baby because all the recovery rooms were full. We woke up at sunrise to see a panorama including both bridges. I only spent 15 minutes in labor at Alta Bates (!), but I still learned a lot. I really appreciated that they didn't make me fill out the clipboard when it was clear I was ready to push. Afterwards I had some difficulty expelling the placenta, and my nurse was that perfect mixture of forceful and kind when she kneaded my abdomen painfully and kept me on task when I really just wanted to get to know my new baby. Hope this helps! Good luck! heidipie

NICUs - Alta Bates versus UCSF

April 2010

We are 24 weeks pregnant with twins and there is a very strong likelihood that our children will be born early. While we hope neither of them will need to stay at the NICU, we want to be prepared in case they do. We are trying to decide whether Alta Bates or UCSF would be the better choice for us. Alta Bates is closer to home, which is a plus, however we are told that they won't guarantee that we can stay overnight with our babies. Also, if there is a situation that is beyond their care level, the default is to transfer babies to Children's Hospital (which we know we don't want) and we are concerned that there would be difficulties in getting one or both of our children to UCSF. These are our primary concerns: (1) we want to be able to stay with our babies as much as possible; (2) we want to be at the place which does the most to encourage and support kangaroo care; (3) we want to be at the place which does the most to assist us in feeding our children breast milk and ultimately breast feeding; and (4) we want to be at the place that provides more private or semi- private space for us. If anyone has had experiences at either or both NICUs, I would love to hear about them. Many thanks. Debra 

My son had a 5-day NICU stay at Alta Bates 4 years ago, when he was born with vacuum extraction, resulting in a nasty wound on his head and softs signs of infection. So, our NICU stay wasn't long, and it wasn't real recent, but I can offer our experience. In short, save one terrible nurse, we had a really wonderful experience with the Alta Bates NICU.

In terms of your specific questions: (1) staying with babies: you are right. there is no guarantee you can stay over night. there are a few rooms, like hotel rooms, that they do daily lotteries for. for whatever it is worth, on the days we were there, we never had a problem getting the room. (2) kangaroo care: no problem there. it was highly encouraged with my boy. (3) breast milk & feeding: one of the highlights for us. my son got banked milk for the first 2 days until my milk came in and I had continual access to a lactation consultant. She was a huge help, and probably watched my son latch on for at least 10 separate times during our 5 days there. (4) private/semi-private space: to be honest, i can't remember. having just delivered my first kid, being in pretty bad shape, and having a baby in the NICU eclipsed any concerns I had about privacy. I don't ever remember even thinking about this.

Best of luck to you, your family, and your babies. I hope all goes well and you are bringing home healthy, strong babies in no time:). genevieve

Unfortunately I can't give you specific advice on the two hospitals in question, but having had a baby who spent two months in the NICU at UCSF, here are a couple of thoughts that might help you prepare.

Although we were at a hospital that has a terrific reputation, it was enormously frustrating and stressful to be at a teaching hospital, as is UCSF, constantly being shuttled between residents who didn't know our baby's case very well or honestly weren't yet well-versed in neonatology, and having to fight for the attention of the senior staff, who also rotated every few weeks.

Also, being in the NICU can be so draining that I would advocate for the closer hospital, so long as you are comfortable that the level of care will still be high. Is it at Alta Bates that they can't guarantee you can stay overnight based on the babies' condition? Because most NICU's have regularly scheduled hours for parents to be present along with only couple of hours of no visits/downtown for nurses to trade shifts and focus on this without interruption. Is there any chance you can visit the NICUs briefly beforehand? I'm sure you'll get lots of other hospital-specific tips, so just hoping this helps a bit and wishing you all the best with your babies-to-be.

We just spent three months in the Alta Bates NICU with our twins who were born at 25 weeks (they shared a placenta and amniotic sac). (DOB 12/30/2009 -- they came home 3/30/2010, & 4/2/2010)

I have nothing but the most amazing things to say about the NICU experience at Alta Bates. It is a very nurturing environment and our twins were actually able to co-bed with each other once they were stable enough. You can visit 24/7 (even through nurse shift changes) and kangaroo care and breast feeding are strongly encouraged. And since you have twins, most likely they will share a room and you'll have that room to yourself. (If the babies are really stable, there might be as many as 4 babies to a room, but that's like, when you have 24 hours until discharge). The support for parents is just amazing, even going as far as giving parents 3 parking passes each week. (They bend over backwards to make sure you can be with your child as much as possible).

My experience with NICU moms is that everybody loves the hospital where their babies stayed. It seems that NICU nurses are just a special breed of people. So I would guess that UCSF and Alta Bates are pretty similar, but I can't speak for UCSF. I can say that the NICU experience is pretty harrowing, so you'll want the one that is closest to you. You do not want to cross a bridge to see your babies, trust me. janine

Dec 2009

Hi there, My husband and I just moved to the East Bay (El Cerrito) and must quickly find a new OBGYN/hospital for our first baby, due in April. (We were previously at UCSF, which we loved.) We're thinking of Alta Bates. Does anyone have any experiences/recommendations with this hospital they can share for doctors, midwives etc? Or any other recs re: OBGYN facilities near our area? Thanks very much, Julia

I believe Debra Levinsky is an Alta Bates-affiliated OBGYN. I know her to be experienced, competent and caring. Bill

You'll probably get lots of messages for this questions, since so many of us here in Berkeley delivered babies at Alta Bates. I had a great experience there. We'd decided to hire a doula for the birth, but I have to say that I felt closer to my Alta Bates nurse on duty than I did to the doula during deliver. She was phenomenal--strong, kind, respectful. I had done all my homework and written up a birth plan etc. And (almost) everything went according to plan. then when I had my baby in my arms, the nurse looked at the birth plan and said, ''Oh, you wanted a natural childbirth. And that's just what you got.'' My point here is that no one pushed IVs drugs, epidurals, c-sections or anything like that on me that I did not want. I think they might have if my health or the baby's health were at risk. But I had a simple straightforward labor and deliver, and all the staff at Alta Bates were terrific! Happy Mama

I was in a similar situation to you - my baby is now 1 year. We were extremely happy with our experience at Alta Bates and my OBGYN was Dr Jill Foley (510) 204 8180. She has offices in Orinda and at Alta Bates. Sometimes the Orinda office was more convenient to get to from El Cerrito than the Berkeley office when you factored in parking etc! She was recommended to me by a friend and I had a terrific experience with her. We were also incredibly fortunate that she was on duty the night I delivered. Happy Mama!

I will recommend Dr. Lillia Lizano in Hercules without hesitation. She is the most skilled surgeon, doctor you will find. I have had her for the last 18years and she has performed some serious surgeries as well as complicted deliveries on me. She is located in Hercules, well worth the short drive from El Cerrito. Her number is (510) 724- 4435. sarah

I would not hesitate to recommend Alta Bates for delivery of your first baby. I had such a good experience here. The nurses were so professional and helpful and friendly. They let my husband spend the nights with me, I had two lactation consultations, and they even send you home with all sorts of items for the baby. I also rented my breast pump from them, which was very convenient. Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this experience.

Don't know about your insurance situation, but UCSF now accepts patients with Hills Physicians, which was formerly an East-Bay-only medical group. My understanding is that they are grandfathering in the Brown and Toland labor/delivery patients, but not other Brown and Toland patients. Since you love UCSF, you might want to double check about whether you can keep going there. I'm an East Bay resident planning a birth center birth in San Francisco, and UCSF is my backup hospital. Margaret

June 2009

Re: Midwife, Doula, Hospital for Single Mom
Hi, I am a single mom (donor insemination) and I had a very good experience delivering at Alta Bates hospital. I had a natural childbirth and the nurses there were very supportive. Whether you get a private room post-partum just depends on how busy they are. I believe they try to put everyone in a private room if possible. My doctor was Debra Levinsky and she was great overall. My method of conception or marital status was never an issue for her. If you want a midwife, the most recommended ones at Alta Bates are Lindy Johnson and Hsiu-li Cheng. I do not have personal experience with them. My doula, Tomi Knutson, was great too. She was extremely reliable and very open to the possibility that she might be the only support person at the birth. I don't know if she's taking clients right now, but you can call her at 510-502-5799. Feel free to email me with any questions. Best wishes! malynda

Hi there, I have a great doula recommendation, Sarah Guillen. She was my doula and I sincerely believe I was able to have an (almost) natural childbirth only through her constant support before and during labor. She stayed with me through every contraction and helped me breath properly, helped me manage my pain and was a calm presence throughout. She is an experienced mother of two and she gave me indispensable information about everything labor related and otherwise. She still calls to check up on me every now and again. I interviewed many doulas and she was by far the most intuitive and nurturing of the lot. Her phone number is 510-384-9479 and her email is lovingmama [at] forooza

Feb 2009

I am interested in a water birth or at least the possibility of laboring in water. I've heard that Alta Bates has jacuzzi rooms, but I wonder how likely it is that I'd actually get to use it. Can anyone share their experiences at Alta Bates? My OBGYN is Christine Lee, if that matters. Thanks! Hoping to labor in water

I had a natural birth at Alta Bates using one of their jacuzzi bathtub rooms (2006). I used it mostly to labor in because the average doctor will insist that you lie in a bed so they can ''catch'' the baby as it comes out. I think they only have two jacuzzi bath tub rooms at AB. It is the luck of the draw to get one. Basically, the tub was a nice big bathtub with jets. It certainly is not like the huge tubs you may have heard of/seen in some water birthing centers or are used in home births. My two cents: if you really want to deliver your baby in water, check out home birthing or a birthing center. Best wishes. Jacuzzi Mom

I gave birth a month ago without pain meds at Alta Bates. You need to talk to your doctor, obviously, and I'd also recommend taking the tour of Alta Bates Birth Center - they offer them in the evenings a few times a month, I think.

Three important things to know about the jacuzzis there - 1 - If your water has broken they will not let you sit in the jacuzzi tub as there is a chance for infection. So, you can use the shower then, but not sit in water in the tub.

2 - If you have any intervention - IV, fetal monitor, etc - you can not be in the tub. The nurse was not initially satisfied with my baby's heart rate fluctuations and I had to wait until she got results she liked before I could remove the monitor and enter the tub.

3 - You can not deliver in the tub. When you start to have a strong urge to push you will need to get out of the tub as they do not support delivering in the tub.

Keep in mind if your circumstance don't allow entry to the jacuzzi, you can find great relief and relaxation from the shower, too. I did not labor for long at the hospital, but at home, I spent an hour or more in the shower and it was fantastic. Becky

Alta Bates does have one or two rooms with a tub that you can labor in. You can request it when you are in triage, and they will put you in that room if it is available. So you have to get lucky that no one else is using it. They knew I wanted a ''natural birth'' when I was in triage, and I was admitted to a room with a tub, even though I had no interest in using it and did not request it. Your best bet is to stay home as long as you can and labor in your own tub! Good luck!

I will be using Lindy Johnson as my midwife who delivers at alta bates. If you use a midwife they are your advocates for your exact birth plan and you stay with her for the whole process. I am not sure about the tub--but I am going to request it--it sure is nice for labor--I used a tub both times for some labor pain relief--alison

I may be a bit late chiming in on this one, but when I was in the childbirth prep class given through Alta Bates prior to the birth of our first baby in Nov. 2007, we were told that although there were a couple of jacuzzi tubs in the hospital that if you wanted to guarantee a jacuzzi birth (all safety considerations provided) that if your doctor agreed to do it, that you could rent a tub to have in your room once you started to labor. The teacher of the class, Jennifer Subasick Marks something or another, mentioned that there are a couple of companies locally who rent birthing tubs that the hospital will allow you to use. Obviously, you'd have to pay for it yourself and I've got no idea what the setup/transport of such a thing is like, but thought it might be worth looking into.

As one other person already responded, they won't let you use a tub at all if your water has already broken or if you need internal monitoring due to potential infection. Best of luck whatever you decide! -- water broke so no tub for me!

Stories from 2008

August 2008

Now in my fifth month of my pregnancy, due to employment issues I've just switched insurance providers (ultimately a good thing!), but come to find out this new HMO doesn't cover the CNM I've been seeing. Or, seemingly, any CNM in the east bay. My first pregnancy was with a midwife at a birth center, but that was in SF, and I'm over here now. I've accepted giving birth at Alta Bates, but was hoping to do so in the care of a midwife. I'm still looking into ways to get midwife care covered with my HMO, failing that, I'm ok with switching providers, but nervous at the prospect of moving to a traditional obstetrician. So I'm curious if anyone has experience with an OB who is encouraging of natural childbirth, and supportive of things like alternate birthing positions, intermittent monitoring and water birth? Any suggestions are appreciated. New to Docs

I have had two natural births at Alta Bates. The nurses were very supportive of my drug free choices and even when I was considering pain relief they were careful to encourage me through the challenges so that I could make it to the end without the drugs. In fact, I labored on my feet for an entire birth. I did have a doula as well. I was very pleased with my care at Alta Bates. I have had experience with three doctors during my two labors and all were very supportive. They are Dr. Hambrick, Dr. Gross and Dr. Schleining from OBGYN Partners for Health. Really though, the nurses are a big part of laboring at Alta Bates. They were great. Best wishes with your baby. Nancy

I wouldn't assume that just because someone has a medical degree, they are somehow anti-natural childbirth. Both of my birth experiences were at different hospitals (CPMC in SF and Kaiser-Oakland) under the care of doctors, no doulas, midwives, etc. Both doctors never even mentioned the possibility of a cesarean birth, and saw cesarean births as a LAST resort, not first impulse. Pain relief was definitely up to me, and for the first birth I chose to have an epidural after 12 hours of labor, but for the second there was no time for any drugs. Both babies were delivered vaginally without complications. My Kaiser doctor especially was very encouraging throughout the birth process. I'm due to deliver again at a hospital this fall and I have no qualms about this. happy with my doctors

While I have had the same experience with Dr. Isenberg he's great! - in person, I want to let it be known that just because you sign on with Dr. Isenberg or any other doctor at OBGYN partners for Health - what you think may happen and what you agree upon as standard practice with your specific OBGYN may not happen when you go in to labor. I was shocked and appalled when the OB on call told me I needed to start taking pitosin within 30 minutes... Yes, my OB did show up for the delivery and it was amazing but all of the hard decisions about MY labor were decided by the nurses and the OB who I'd never met. experienced lots of intervention

Dr. Bill Eisenberg. In addition to being a (former) well-respected chief of staff at Alta Bates, he has trained with midwives and has a patient-centered approach. His c-section rate is very low and he attends 90% of his births. When I first met him, he asked to talk only about my goals for my birth and to see if we were a good fit for each other. How amazing and rare... You can have a natural birth! Happy Dr. Bill Mommy

Stories from 2007

Sept 2007

Can anyone share their recent experiences with childbirth at Alta Bates or Summit? I am moving to the area and need to pick a hospital. Alta Bates has been recommended but you have to share the postpartum recovery room. Any ideas on how much it cost to get a private room and if you can get one if requested? What are my alternatives. I will be moving to Piedmont and want something within 20 minutes. Thanks Maisy Renuka

I had both my kids at Alta Bates (2003 and 2005) and thought it was great. The labor and delivery nurses especially were helpful and terrific. I'm pretty sure that since the remodel (c. 2004) it's much more common to get a private room -- I know that after my first baby I had a shared room (which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be -- I was a first-time mom and the other mom was on her 3rd, so she had good advice), but with my second baby I got a private room without requesting it or paying extra. Check with the hospital to see what their current policy is on this. JP

I had a wonderful experience at Alta Bates, the nurses and doctors there are great and so responsive. If you have a c-section, you share a recovery room for the first 2 hours or so, just until the anesthesia wears off, but ALL the postpartum rooms at Alta Bates are private now, with pull out beds (well, chairs) for partners. You do have to double check your insurance bill, though. My room wasn't covered until the insurer was notified that there was no choice but to have a private room, then it was written off. happy birther

I just gave birth to my first child in Alta Bates this May and had a pretty good experience. Everyone now gets a private postpartum room free of charge -- this is new as of January, I think (there are caveats, like if they run out of rooms, but in the birth prep class, the nurse said that was rare). The facilities are very nice, both the birthing rooms and the postpartum. I think they are generally open to various things birthing wise, but I was pretty mundane in that sense, so I don't know (I think it's really more your ob that you need to get straight with). Post-recovery was generally good for us -- the nurses were all great; during the day there were a lot of tests and people coming in and out, which was exhausting, but I should of made use of their 'do not disturb' sign which would have kept everyone out (BTW: the photographs they offer to take for you to order aren't anything special, and it's one more tiring thing in the day I would opt out of). I would also say that we took the birth prep class and some details of what they told us would happen didn't; so if something's important to you make sure you make a point of planning to ask for it at the right time, even if you think it's standard procedure (e.g. giving me the baby immediately after birth to nurse, before drops etc. didn't happen like I was told it would). I felt very comfortable asking for anything I wanted and felt like I got a lot of attention and was really pampered both before and after delivery.

My one bad experience, which was more far-reaching than all the more numerous nice experiences, was that the lactation consultant was HORRIBLE (and mean to me). I was having some problems, but the advice she gave me basically made it impossible for me to fix the problems and my baby never did breastfeed as a result! And numerous things she did were directly contrary to everything I'd read and advice I'd gotten beforehand (which should have set off warning bells, but frankly just after giving birth, with your first child to boot, you don't really have any bells left). I've heard other people have had problems with the lactation consultants at Alta Bates, so if things are a little rough to begin with -- regardless of whether you do choose to consult the hospital consultant -- go to a support group/la leche league AND contact your pediatrician or a consultant you trust right away. I was lucky that my pediatrician was persistent in checking up regarding the nursing, or I could have also lost my milk supply by following the lactation consultant's advice. (I would generally recommend getting different opinions -- the best I got was from my mother, which I promptly ignored because she wasn't a professional! And also try to keep a high level of skepticism for any advice where you don't keep putting the baby directly to the breast or where you give her a bottle) Elizabeth

I was recently a doula at a birth at Alta Bates attended by CNM Jeri Zukoski. I was very impressed both by the midwife and by the hospital's support of this birth, a successful VBAC. For those planning a VBAC, or seeking minimal-intervention birth in a hospital setting, I'd recommend Jeri highly. Jessica

Stories from 2005

Oct 2005

I'm expecting my second child in 2006 and wondered what people who have given birth recently at Alta-Bates Berkeley think of the care they received there. Are the nurses nice? Also, in a post from many years ago someone complained about the nursery security not being so hot. Did recent patients find that to be true as well? I gave birth to my first child at UCSF, where I loved the nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors, security measures at the nursery, etc. Even the view from the hospital room was gorgeous! So I'm wondering if any East Bay hosptial will be a letdown after that! Thanks for the info.

I'm expecting my first baby at the end of November and plan to give birth at Alta Bates (Berkeley campus). I'm hoping to deliver without pain medication or other interventions. Earlier in my pregnancy, I had planned to find a doula to assist but when I found out how expensive they are I had second thoughts. Plus I have not done any calling around/interviewing yet and I know it's getting late to find someone. My question is: What are my chances of having a positive, hopefully all-natural birth experience at Alta Bates without the assistance of a doula? The natural birth literature I've been reading is full of women's very positive stories of at-home births attended by midwives and doulas versus very negative stories of hospital births. I would love to hear from anyone who had a good experience at Alta Bates without the assistance of a midwive or doula. My husband and I are taking a Bradley class, which is boosting my confidence that we can avoid a hospital horror story of our own but perhaps I'm being naive. All thoughts/advice greatly appreciated! Eve

I had a good birth experience at Alta Bates two years ago (that might not seem recent, but it seems like yesterday) and will be delivering there again in a couple of months. Things did not go as planned, but that had nothing to do with the staff. They were mostly fantastic. I labored there for two days before having a c-section, but was not pressured into doing anything I didn't want to do. I feel that I can speak to the excellence of the nursing staff because I went through so many shift changes and they were almost all wonderful professionals who seemed to have seen everything. I finally asked for an epidural after 30 hours, which allowed me some relief, but did nothing to speed my progress...I was still opening about 1 inch every 8 hours! My doctor finallly suggested a c-section (after 40 hours), and given that there was meconium from the very beginning I am surprised I was allowed to labor that long anyway.

My doula played a very low-key role and was not really in an advocacy role as much as a support for my other support people. That said, I think the hospital is very open to doulas, but you certainly don't need one to feel supported and unpressured. What you do need, however, is an open mind because you never know what is going to happen and how you will feel about it then. If you go in expecting things to go a certain way you will most likely be in for a surprise.

Regarding the security of the nursery, we can't really speak to that. My husband was with the baby for his first check-up. We never left the baby in the nursery by himself. It did seem secure, though. Good luck! Amber

I gave birth to my first and second children at ABMC. I would have much preferred a home birth the second time, but my insurance pay all the hospital bills and none for homebirth. both births were relatively fast, uncomplicated and unmedicated. and I'm pretty happy with both experiences. I had a doula for both.

I would NOT recommend going to a hospital for a natural birth without a doula and I am an RN, I know the system and I know what I can refuse, put-off and accept. Hospitals don't intimidate me.

A doula will be with you and work with you through the birth and they will help you look after your interests. Hospital staff work for the hospital so they have a different agenda and different priorities. You can't expect them to be with you the whole time and you can't predict what kind of personalities you're going to run into. Also staff generally changes every 8 hours so even if you have someone you like at the beginning, they probably won't be there the whole time. That being said, you can decrease your chances of medical intervention by going late. They say when contractions are 3 to 5 minutes apart - err on the side of 3 not 5 - and your contractions are intense enough that you have to stop what you're doing and maybe even can't speak through them. If you are in the hospital and your having pain. If you really do not want pain meds, don't tell people you have pain unless you have an idea of what else they can do for you - rub your back, help you focus/ breathe.

This is all assuming your pregnancy is uncomplicated, You don't have a family history of giving birth very very fast, you live within 30 minutes of the hospital, you water (if it breaks at home) is clear, etc, etc. good luck doulas are worth every penny

Yes, you can have a positive, drug-free birth at Alta Bates without a doula or midwife - I've had two of them, the most recent just in September 2005. The nurses and staff were definitely *surprised* by my choice to skip the drugs, but quite supportive of it - I sort of felt like they were my ''cheerleaders.'' The nurses there are great - both times, I've had a single nurse with me throughout my labor (so I assume that's standard unless you labor through multiple shifts), and this most recent one had some great ideas about positions to labor in, etc., that helped a lot. She even stuck around after my son was born to hold him while I took a shower. My best advice is to learn everything you can about the birth process - both what's standard procedure at the hospital and, most importantly, what your body is going through at each stage - so you can advocate for yourself and make informed decisions if things change. Make it clear up front that you want to try to go drug-free, and I'm almost certain you'll get strong support from the staff -- my impression is that they try to match you up with nurses who share your views, as much as possible. Feel free to email me with any questions about Alta Bates/drug-free labor. jpp

A doula's fees is money WELL SPENT! I had a very difficult labor (pitocin induction), and felt the nurses and doctors at Alta Bates were just waiting for me to 'give up' so they could do a C- section. I'm not saying they were against my decision for a natural birth, they just didn't think I would do it. Our nurse told me that 90% of women get epidurals at Alta Bates. I really thought in Berkeley, land of the Prius and dog 'guardians', the rate would be lower. Nope.

The staff at Alta Bates is very competent. But if something goes wrong, their goal is to ensure you and the baby make it through. Our doula's goal was to help me meet my birthing goals, as long as the baby and I were in no danger. Our doula, Judy Ballinger, was wonderful, and her presence is the reason I was able to avoid a C-section or pain meds. She is a nurse and she's trained in acupressure. We found her AFTER our birthing classes, when I was about 32 weeks or so. So it's not too late!

Her website is Grateful for my doula

Congratulations on your upcoming addition! I've had both my babies at Alta Bates (1999 & 2003)and have truly had great experiences both times. The labor and delivery nurses are absolutely wonderful. At AB, they are very supportive of natural childbirth, using massage, birthing stools, showers and other pain relief methods besides drugs. They won't offer you drugs - you have to ask. Security measures are very tight, my husband was stopped in the hall with one of my girls since he was holding her in his arms in a ''concealing'' (aka snuggly) way instead of pushing her in the rolling crib-thingy. With both of my children (both delivered vaginally), I wanted minimal intervention. However, I needed some intervention with both of them, and was truly thankful to be in a hospital instead of my home, so that the baby's needs could be met in the fastest possible way. Take a tour and see what you think. The only negative thing I could say would be that one or two of the after-care nurses weren't quite on the same top tier as the labor and delivery folks, but were still nice, knowledgeable, and quick to respond when you need them. - been there and loved it

I recently gave birth at Alta Bates (8-27-05) and found it to be an excellent experience. First, most of the maternity nurses work either as midwives or doulas in private practice as well so they are all experienced with being both primarily a patient advocate and with working in the institutional setting. I was there on a very busy night (all beds were full and some people were waiting in triage) but even with this, I never waited for more than about 2 minutes before my assigned nurse came if I needed anything. Being a berkeley hospital, the staff are completely comfortable with ''natural birth'' -- so comfortable that when I decided I no longer wanted my ''natural birth'' they worked hard to help me go even a bith longer without the drugs. I had an easy birth until the end when there was a bit of calamity (contractions practially stopping, attempt with vacuum, episiotomy to try and avoid a c-section, nearly C-section, a big tear anyway and horrible neck and shoulder cramping) but when they needed to rally the troops because things started going south, they brought in staff like crazy and were ready to do what needed to be done to keep me and my baby healthy and safe. As for baby safety, they almost solely have the baby room in with you (unless you want a break). Your baby never leaves your side and everyone who enters the room knocks first and shows you a badge before they even empty the trash, let alone look at your baby. And even in post-partum (again, the place was filled to capacity), someone always showed up within 2 minutes (and answered the call button immediately) whether you needed your baby's diaper changed, help sitting up or getting to the bathroom, or a pain pill. I would say that Alta Bates deserves the good reputation is has for being the best maternity care in the East Bay. a very happy first time mother

I delivered my son in June at Alta Bates. I had a very positive experience, despite the fact that I had a very long, more-difficult-than-most labor, vaginal delivery, and recovery. About nurses q I thought they were fantastic. Some were better than others but I didnmt dislike any of them. The biggest pain in the ass was the one who wanted me to keep those damn moniters on the belly when I really just wanted to move around. We were there for 4 shifts of nurses (I told you it was a long labor) and only 1 was over-zealous about keeping the monitors on. I kept tearing them off so I could walk around and the other 3 nurses just smiled and looked the other way. About drugs q I was impressed. When they first checked me in, they knew to ask if I was trying to have a natural labor (they knew this because it was on my birth plan). I said yes. The nurse then said, lOkay, then I will not offer you any drugs, so if you want them then you will need to ask. Do you feel comfortable with that?n. And they kept to their word, through all 4 nurse shifts. I was surprised and delighted. About Nursery security q our son was in the transitional nursery and in the NICU. Most babies stay in the room with the mama but if they need extra help like our little guy did, they go to the transitional nursery. Security seemed tight to me but my husband stayed with our son EVERY minute he was in there q 6 hours till he went to the NICU. They were very accommodating and welcoming of my husband.

About Doulas q I had one and it was SO SO SO important to having a great birth experience. Its one of the reasons I felt so taken care of. I would recommend having a doula to everyone. If your concern is cost, I hear there are doula training programs where you can get a lower cost doula in training. Im not sure how much the doulas in your research are charging for, and we are on a tight budget, but I think it was the best $750 we spent. Happy birthing! anon

I gave birth to my daughter at Alta Bates on August 3 of this year (2005). I would say that, overall, we had a very positive experience. I was not thrilled, however, with my labor room nurse, and wish I'd thought to ask for a different one. HOWEVER, I know that there are wonderful labor nurses that work there, so don't let fear of a nurse you don't like stop you, you CAN request some one else. My nurse wasn't SOOO bad, but, in retrospect, I think I might have had an even better experience if I'd thought to ask for a different one. I knew that I could, but in the moment, it just didn't occur to me!

All of the other nurses were great, I had a completely natural childbirth and, though I did have a doula, she in no way had to push for me not to have interventions, I think the medical staff there are perfectly used to laboring moms requesting natural child-birth, so if that's what you want, you shouldn't have any problems. Best of luck Alesia

I gave birth at Alta Bates in July 2004 and had a very positive, no pain medication experience; even with a few complications...I was induced because labor did not insue after my water broke. As you know from your Bradley course, Pitocin does not bode well for continuing labor without pain meds, but it can be done!

When we arrived at the hospital, the nurse asked me if I wanted any pain intervention. When I declined, she said that the nurses would not ask me again, and that if I changed my mind, I would have to ask for meds. To me, this meant, ''We'll go along with what you want'', and I found that comforting.

Later in the labor, my daughter's heart rate dropped enough that I was given (with my permission) an internal monitor (rather than over my tummy, the monitor is inserted vaginally- much more accurate).

Twice more, her heart rate dropped to the point that the OB on call had the OR ready for a C-section. Luckily for me, things stabilized, I was able to go off the Pitocin as my body kicked into labor on it's own (thank goodness!), and twelve hours later, my beautiful baby was born medication-free.

I found the nurses (especially the post partum nurses) to be fantastic. Good luck! kris

To the woman planning for a natural birth at Alta Bates who had considered hiring a doula: I think that most doulas have sliding scales so if the cost is prohibitive, ask if they have a sliding scale. Also, consider asking your Bradley teacher to be an assistant coach at the birth. Bradley teachers need to attend births to keep their certification current. Good luck! Kim, former doula, now Bradley teacher-in-training

My son was born 11 months ago at Alta Bates. I had a wonderful experience. I had a blessedly short, but very intense labor. I had planned on having no interventions, including IV, but things were so intense in the triage that I said to my husband, I want something! I was also hyperventalating with some of the contractions. The nurses were great! They had a hard time getting the IV in b/c the contractions were so close together, and I hadn't had a lot of fluids or food that morning. But they finally got it in w/little discomfort. The nurse, Grace, that was MY nurse for the duration was fantastic! She really helped relax me so they could get the IV in, and keep me focused on my breathing so I wasn't hyperventalating. She also was able to determine that I would not have time for an epidural and was quick to offer alternatives. (This would be my negative experience: They charted I wanted an epidural when in fact I did not, but I still needed the IV for the IV Fentanyl that I did have, so nothing really changed, and when someone said something about the epi, my husband said, no she wants to try IV relief 1st, be sure your hubby or birth partner knows your wishes if you can't communicate it yourself!). When it came time to push, she was there with words of encouragement and tips on how to get a ''better'' push (he was out in 30 mins, my OB just barely made it!). Security was great. They now do ''rooming- in'' where they baby stays in the room with you, unless you request otherwise, or if you have c-section (I think, not sure on the c-s rules). My son never left my side. Everytime a nurse came to do anything, they clearly identified themself, checked our ID bracelets to make sure we were who we were. Even upon discharge. When they gave me the ok to shower, I had family to watch my son. I never felt worried or nervous that our safety wasn't being taken care of. If you have further questions you are welcome to contact me directly about my esperience! Kukana

The first poster wanted to know generally what the care was like. My experience in September of this year was that the post-partum nurses were helpful and nice, but incredibly busy. (I liked my L nurse but only worked with her for an hour before my son was born, so I can't say much.) The morning after my delivery we saw a nurse, but then six or seven hours passed without a nurse (they're supposed to come in every two hours). That night no one brought my dinner. Despite my requests, a lactation specialist never came. And it took them five hours to arrange for our departure (hearing test, paperwork, etc.) the next day. I didn't really care, being happy with my new son and my family, but they gave me lots of free stuff to make up for it: parking passes, cafeteria passes, gift shop certificates.

The second poster asked specifically about her chance of having a natural birth at Alta Bates without a doula. I can't say, because I delivered my son naturally with the help of a wonderful doula, Treesa Mclean, and it was worth every penny. More than the hospital, though, it seems to be that achieving a natural birth might have a lot to do with your doctor or midwife, plus the luck of the draw as far as your particular set of circumstances.

I also posted about my birth experience (as New Mama) in this very newsletter under the heading ''Berkeley-Orinda Women's Health.'' nicole

I delivered at Alta Bates in February. I had a great experience. I loved my midwife, Lindy Johnson, and SHE, not the hospital, made the labor and delivery what it was. I also had a fantastic L staff nurse - she couldn't have been any better.

Post-care was hit or miss. Once i went to my own room, some of the nurses were great, and one was not good at all. The food was absolutely horrible. Have your visitors stop at whole foods before they come over to bring you and your partner something good to eat.

The nursery - they only bring babies there if there's something going on that they need to monitor. my baby had to go there for half a day or so. there were only a couple other babies there, and the nurses were awesome. security seemed really tight, as only my husband and i were allowed in. They kept baby there longer than i would have wanted, but it really was ok. Though i have nothing to compare the experience to, i'd recommend alta bates fully. it was great.

I am a doula, one year living in Berkeley. I attended 2 births at Alta Bates this year. Both ladies chose to take pain meds during the short moment I stepped out of the room. The nurses are great. They are also trained to offer pain medication. When a person is in such grave pain, even without back labor, she is likely to go for pain meds - regardless of what she thought she'd want before she entered labor. Anything to stop the pain. The women who write how they delivered without pain meds or doulas at Alta Bates are incredibly empowered, and I suspect might have been lucky enough to have a midwife with them through the majority of the labor experience. They are not joking when they say that the Alta Bates nurses are surprised when you refuse pain meds. They offer them and administer them regularly, and have indicated to me that a totally natural birth is odd to them. And why wouldn't it be, considering their training?

One of my birthing ladies this year actually went for the epidural and after the fact she regretted it. She felt strongly in retrospect that she was unable to push effectively because she couldn't feel her contractions. She was actually asking the midwife when to push, and we were all watching the monitor to see when she was contracting, and giving her cues. The doctors seemed to be anxious to give her a cesarian section, but the midwives resisted adamantly. It was the support of the birth team of midwives, doula, gifted nurses and relatives that kept the birth vaginal. Go figure. I think she's going for a homebirth next time. a devoted doula

I just wanted to add something about Alta Bates. I had a great birth experience -- both times! The 2nd (11 months ago) was totally intervention-free and I credit my wonderful nurse (Sonya) for that. What I want to point out is the recovery care. After my first son was born, we paid for the private room and got wonderful care. The second time we didn't opt for the extra expense (plus Daddy needed to be home for #!). The care was pretty bad, the room noisy from hall noise and my roommates constant TV. The nurses also seemed harried and less, well, nice. I don't know if it is the difference that 4 years made or the private room, but in retrospect I think the private room was worth it. I didn't pay for a doula either time, but wished I had my own room the second time around. happy momma of 2 boys

June 2005

I'm planning to deliver my first baby at Alta Bates in December, and would like updated reviews of birth experiences there. I'm specifically interested in hearing from women who preferred (and hopefully had) minimal medical intervention in their labor. Was the staff okay to deal with when intervention was declined? Overall, is Alta Bates a nice place to have a ''natural'' birth? Thank you for sharing your experiences. An excited soon-to-be Mama

Both of my wonderful, healthy sons were born at Alta Bates, and their births couldn't have been more different. One was an emergency C-section and the second birth was completely drug and intervention-free even though it was a VBAC. I think it was the wonderful labor and delivery nurse (her name was Sonja) who made it possible! I think the staff are VERY responsive to the mother's wishes for her birth and very helpful. When I was ready to give in for medication, she gave me all the right info for my choice and helped me get through without. When I needed a break, the bathtub worked wonders. When I had the emergency caesarin, the nurse gave me information and support that really helped. I wish you luck, and hope you have a birth experience near to what you want. (They are never exactly what we expect!) And congratulations! Sharon

You are going to get so many different responses about this, as they'll be coming from so many different people. Combine that with the luck of the draw of the nurse you get and we all end up with unique experiences.

My experience at Alta Bates was a good one. It did not feel like a baby factory. My room was quiet and peaceful, and the nurses we had were extremely experienced, supportive and helpful. Here's my experience:

1) Everything went well until the last 5 minutes of pushing so I was tremendously relieved to be a hospital setting and have the my newborn receive the kind of care he did.

2) They tell you that if you don't like the nurse you have, you can request another one. You shouldn't have to stress about dealing with that, so be sure you and your partner have an understanding ahead of time that he/she is to be your advocate and deal with this sort of situation if it arrises. Or have a doula there who will make sure that your wishes are followed and to be a buffer.

3) I had the intention of having a natural childbirth, but ended up having the epidural. I hadn't slept for days having had pre-labor at home. I was exhausted and the pain was overwhelming. You may have the most thorough birthplan in the world, but what it comes down to is that no one knows what your particular labor is going to be like and you have to be flexible. I was glad that I had the option to deviate from my original plans and have the epdiural. There was no pressure to have one, it was my decision. In the end I think it allowed me to rest to go through hours of pushing, and to have the energy to continue and not use the forceps like the doctor was suggesting. The nurse supported my choice not to use the forceps and encouraged me to try longer. In short, although it was my plan not to have an epidural, in the end I was glad I was at a place where the option was there just in case.

4) It was nice to be in the hospital after the birth. The nurse we had for the post-delivery part was great, had tons of advice, and was very attentive and gentle with our son. It was so nice to be in that hospital bed that you could adjust, to have food brought to you and someone there helping you change diapers and learn to breastfeed. I didn't want to go home for a couple of days.

5) Some of the nurses we had have been doing it for more than 20 years and have probably seen thousands of babies, but yet they still treated the birth like the momentous occasion it was and our son like the unique and special being that he is. anon

Hello, I had my son at Alta Bates November of 2003 and my experience was good. I have a total fear of needles and the thought of having an epidural scared me way more than having my baby w/out drugs. My labor was 4 hours long and my doula and doctor were there. They encouraged me to go as far as possible with no drugs. I did have an IV which I guess is standard. But they were by no means diappointed that I didn't want anything. Good Luck to you and enjoy your pregnancy! Happy Alta Bates Mommy

We delivered our first at AB one year ago. All natural, no pain meds, no epidural. The staff was totally okay with it. I should say that we checked in to the delivery area just 65 minutes before our daughter was born, so there wasn't really a whole lot of time for anything to have been done anyhow. Overall experience was fine. Remember this is the Berkeley/Oakland area, the staff at AB have seen pretty much everything, so your desire for natural childbirth is not a big deal for them to understand.

A few random tips: The later you show up at the hospital, the less likely you are to have an intervention. The staff is there for you, if you decline an intervention, don't let them pressure you into changing their mind (the staff's priorities and your priorities don't always match, it's that way at any hospital). Hire a doula, someone who has been there before and is 100% on your side. Take some childbirth prep classes (including a hospital tour) so you know what to expect.

Congratulations on your first baby. I researched the hell out of local hospital birthing options and ended up giving birth at Alta Bates, and looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I think I made too much of a big deal out of the whole thing!

Alta Bates was a wonderful hospital, and they respected my and my husband's wishes and I had a vaginal birth with no pain medication which is what I wanted. The entire staff in the birthing room was great, except for one nurse, but I just ignored her and focused on the people I respected and/or loved. I had all these plans, but when the time came to get the baby out, all those plans went out the window and all I did was give birth, and I didn't give a hoot who was there or what they were doing. It was just me and the baby; it was really an amazing experience - my body just took over.

The important thing to remember is that you will be giving birth in a hospital, and if they have to do a 'medical intervention' they will. The hospital is there to help you have a living baby!! The hospital and especially (I think) any in the bay area is not going to make you take anything you don't want to. Sure, some of the staff may suggest strongly, and say ''when I had my baby...'' but this is when your birth partner is supposed to step in and reiterate in a clear and straightforward way that you do not want this or that. You can also ask the staff NOT to suggest any medication (or whatever) to you.

And in the end, it doesn;t matter how your baby comes out - the important thing is that you get to hold this child you've been waiting a long time to see.

My favorite book was one composed solely of birthstories. I can't think of the name right now, but I loved it. It showed me that you can prepare for a birth but not plan it.... Good luck with everything

I had my son in April 2004. I did hypnobirthing beforehand, yoga every day, read ''The Thinking Woman's Guide to Birth,'' etc. Then I was a week late and my amniotic fluid dropped from borderline to dangerously low overnight. I was immediately admitted on a Saturday morning and put on pitocin, and for three DAYS I bartered with the OBGYN on call (my doctor was away that weekend). Sunday morning, after my son's heart rate dropped precipitously, the doctor strongly suggested I get a C- section. After discussion, we decided that if I had the epidural catheter inserted, but w/ no drugs administered, she would feel better about allowing me to continue to try to deliver naturally. On Monday morning I still hadn't dialated at all, got the same ''You should really have the C-section'' from my doctor, but I argued on. I tried all my hypnobirthing willpower and managed to dialate enough to have them break the amniotic sac. 7 hours later I hadn't dialated anymore and I was fully exhausted, freshly in pain after realizing my efforts were for naught. As soon as the drugs were administered into the catheter, my son went into distress and all ''discussion'' about the C-section ended.

What really convinced me that it was truly time for the C-section was the nurses. For three days they were positive and very encouraging, letting me know they supported me and thought I was a trooper (if not a little insane and a lot stubborn). But in those minutes after the drug was introduced I saw their faces and actions completely change, and I trusted their reactions since they had been working with me all along (unlike the doctors who jumped to C-section at the first sign of anything astray from smooth). So... I didn't have the birth experience I wanted, but in retrospect I got to try very hard to achieve what I wanted, and I truly feel those nurses helped me as much as they could. FYI, my son's head (and body) were ENORMOUS, so the C-section was the right call all along. anon

Hi Soon to be Mamma, I gave birth at Alta Bates twice. Both were very different experiences, but both good. Both times I went as long as I could without intervention and the docs and nurses were totally supportive with whatever I wanted to do. I trust you'd have a positive experience in this regard as well. Best of luck to ya! mommy of two

I delivered at Alta Bates in 2004 and overall had a positive experience. I had planned to go the natural route but ended up choosing an epidural.

At first I was paired with a nurse who specializes in drug-free deliveries but when I changed my mind she switched with someone else, which was fine with me. It's a good hospital for natural deliveries, I have lots of friends who had no drugs there.

All the nurses were great. My son had a short stay in the NICU and while of course I would not wish that on anyone, I cannot speak highly enough of the nursing staff there. They were incredibly sensitive and caring.

My big gripe with Alta Bates is their billing department. Thirteen months later and I am still dealing with bills! Best of luck. AB mama

I had our 2-yr old & 6-mos old at Alta Bates. Both very positive experiences. While I had epidurals each time, we took a pre-labor class at Alta Bates (which I highly recommend) & several sessions were spent working on natural pain management for the labor process; thus, I believe that Alta Bates is very aware that this is the way many of the women in our area want to delivery. Alta Bates IS the hospital to have a baby in the Bay Area! They delivery hundreds of babies each month & even so, I always felt that I was the only one they had to tend to. In fact, with my 2nd child, born at 11:30 pm, our nurse worked several hours past her shift-end to complete with me all the post-delivery stuff. She left only after we had settled in comfortably to our post delivery room. I would recommend that if it's in your budget, do get a private room. I've had friends who didn't & it was difficult to bond with their newborn with the roommate's guests coming & going. Best wishes to you for a smooth delivery & healthy baby. Debbie deborah

Hello! I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at Alta Bates in '03 and the experience was really good. I did not use any drugs and an epidural was not even mentioned. The staff was very calm and understanding and attentive but not overbearing. There was a shift change about every 4 hours so the nurses always seemed to be well rested. The only complaint I had and it really is nothing to complain about, it just shows how much there care about you and the well being of your child, is the fact that after the baby is born, they will not stop bothering you! Every (what seemed like) 10 minutes a nurse, aide, orderly or someone would come into my room! They were making sure I was breast feeding, telling me about parenting classes being offered to new moms, checking the babies weight, checking the room temp, anything reason you can think of, they were in the room asking about it! But over all it was great experience and I am sad that Kaiser has re-opened it's maternity ward so thats where us members have to go from now on. Oh, one more thing, this did not happen to me but it happened to my cousin in April. She had to pay her co-pay before she left the hospital instead of the usual ''bill me'' option. That was kinda interesting but I guess it depends on your insurance coverage. jai

I had an intervention-free birth at Alta Bates in 2003. The nurses there were great - a little surprised by my natural/hypnobirthing childbirth, maybe, but supportive of it... In fact, I ended up with an on-call doc from my OB's practice, rather than my regular doc, and the nurses sort of ran interference with him to help support my wishes (eg, they warned me that he liked to do a lot of episiotomies, which I didn't want and didn't have, thanks to their warning). The hospital's policies seem pretty liberal as far as letting you walk around, labor in different positions, have music in the room, turn the lights down, and otherwise chart your own course. My best advice is to know all you can about what you want and what your options are at each step, and then advocate tirelessly for your choices. For the most part, AB will accommodate your wishes, but you have to make them clear or you end up on the ''standard plan.'' Have a wonderful birth! anon

Congratulations on your new baby! We had our first baby born in Oct. 2004 at Alta Bates and had a wonderful experience there. The staff was extremely supportive and friendly. We had our doulas and a birth plan, and wanted a natural birth. The staff was concerned because I was given pitocin to induce labor which can cause very strong contractions, and they offered medication to me, but never pushed me.

When the labor was in the active pushing stages, the nurses were extremely caring, helpful, and supportive--I really feel they went the extra mile to help us have the natural birth that we wanted.

I also heard that they have new delivery room with bathtubs with jazcuzzi, which weren't quite ready when we were there. Best of luck to you. Lucie

Alta Bates seemed in January 2004 to be a very natural-friendly place. I labored hard for about 15 hours with no progress at Alta Bates. The baby's head was not descended at all and I was dilated to 2 or something terrible like that. My mom had C-sections because the doctors estimated her pelvis was too small. And my doctor had been sort of muttering about that possibility in my case too. Anyway, I was trying to go with minimal intervention but after that much labor and no food and no sleep I was thinking well, I guess I'm going to have a C- section. My mom, my friend, and my husband were all there also saying, yah, let's go to the C-section. It was the nurse and doctor who said, well, maybe you want to see whether this will work vaginally, you'll never know what your body can do unless you push it. So I got an epidural and continued laboring. Turned out the baby was not budging no matter how much pitocin I got and I did in fact need a C-section. But my point is that the medical staff was VERY supportive of minimizing intervention. I did not in any way feel pressure to do an intervention and in fact got some pressure to hold off on intervention (which ended up in an epic saga of prolapsed cords etc etc. all's well that ends well . . . ) So I would say Alta bates is a great place if you want to go natural and have the convenience of emergency medical facilities available in case you need them - which we did. Shona

I had a great experience with a natural birth at Alta Bates. We did not have a birth plan but we did politely make our wishes clear to the staff and did not meet any real resistance (other than mild disbelief!). My OB and I had an understanding about what kind of birth I wanted (natural, no drugs, avoid C section etc). The hospital contacted the on-call OB who prescribed lots of drugs (just in case, I guess) but after we made it clear to them that we did not want them, there was no problem and they were not pushed on us. The nurse we had was great and seemed to understand that I wanted a very low-key environment and was really only in the room to check on me. Happily, my own OB got there in time. I think that it depends a lot on who delivers your baby; I think that if it had been another OB with a different philosophy things might have gone differently. Good luck and congratulations! happy mama

I had my daughter there in March 2003 and while it was a fast and natural birth (ouch!) it was a wonderful experience. I can't say more about Tasha, our nurse. She was w/ us the entire time and was very gentle and knowledgable. The doctor on the other hand seemed to just want to get the experience over with and wasn't as gentle. I use Kaiser so, he was the resident on hand. I beleive he has moved on now, so you shouldn't have to worry. Good Luck and have no fear. They were great for us. :) Tracie

I had a wonderful birth experience at Alta Bates, with minimal interventions. Based on our birth plan, no medications were offered and my first pelvic exam was when I felt ready to push. Having a doula familiar with Alta Bates was very helpful. She made sure all doctors and nurses had a copy of our birth plan, and she explained their policies beforehand.

They routinely do IVs and add pitocin after delivery. Both of these can be waived by signing a form. It was helpful for us to think these decisions through ahead of time.

I found a wide range of quality amongst the nurses, but ended up with an incredibly helpful and reassuring nurse for the delivery. You can always ask for a new nurse if you are not comfortable with the one assigned.

My baby's birth was one of the most incredible moments of my life. I wish you luck in your decisions. Laura

Overall, I had a great birth at Alta Bates about 15 months ago. My daughter was born naturally with the help of my husband, my doula and our ob/gyn. We declined some things after birth (like eyedrops, Hep B shot), and that was fine, no discussions. When you go into the hospital, make sure you (or somebody) clearly tells the admissions person that you are trying to give birth naturally. They will try to match a nurse who is supportive of your preference to the extent possible. Also, it may be worthwhile to check whether they have a room with a jacuzzi available, there are only a few of those. Antje

I had both my children at Alta Bates. The amount of interventions are really determined by you and your physician, however be sure what you want is clear and boldly noted on your chart so it follows you from labor and delivery to the post partum recovery. My bigger concern would be the level of care and environment. I reported the problems with my first delivery and the hospital dealt with them so I won't bring them up except to say to keep an eye on registry nurses as they aren't as well versed as the regular staff in hospital procedures. My second delivery went well, the labor delivery nurse was skilled, caring and respective of my requests. The problem came as the area we were moved to for recovery was awful. We were able to pay for an upgrade to a private room which helped. The fire alarm went off 3 times during the night and no one was around to ask what was going on. The loud speaker was cranked up so we woke up to every announcement. The woman who came in to draw blood for the required state tests didn't speak english (they take lots of blood for this!)and two rooms down the hall had young teenage girls with 10-15 of their closest gang member friends and the staff didn't seem concerned with the number of people in the room.

As for invasive postpartum interventions - they insisted on taking blood from my son every hour by cutting his heel with a razor blade (because he was over 9 lbs. - low blood sugar is the concern). I was able to stop this by agreeing to watch for the symptoms myself. I may have had to sign something. As soon as we could we asked to leave and then it took them 3 hours to find a wheelchair! I swore I'd never go back to Alta Bates.

Hope this helps you be prepared. Barb

I had a wonderful med-free delivery there and definitely had zero pressure to take meds. I have heard that you can request certain nurses for mommas who would have preferred a home birth and assume those nurses are more au naturale inclined.

Hello- Congatulations on your upcoming bundle of joy!!

I recently gave birth to my first child at Alta Bates on May 4th. I wanted a completely natural childbirth, no interventions, no drugs and that's exactly what I had.

I believe that I had the birthing experience I wanted because I labored at home as long as possiible. I was fortunate and had a short labor, I started regular contractions around 5pm, we made one trip to Alta Bates at 7pm where we were told I was in early labor and we could stay there and walk around, come back in an hour and get checked OR we could go home. I knew that I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, so we went back to our house. I labored there until about 11:30pm, it was HARD getting back in the car but we did it and made it to Alta Bates around midnight. Our baby was born at 1:11am.

When we got into the delivery room one of the nurses tried to give me an IV, when we were told on the tour that IV's are not standard practice. This nurse said IV's are always done, but my husband insisted that I didn't want one so they didn't give it to me.

The nurses were all WONDERFUL, the ones during delivery were great and the nurses who look after you after delivery too. We were planning on staying at the hospital for only one night but the nurses were so great and it was nice having your meals brought to you and nice having a bed that went up and down so I didn't have to get out of bed to nurse and sleep we ended up staying 2 nights!

I highly recommend taking the birthing class that Alta Bates offers. If you have any more questions please feel free to email me. Good luck!! cathy

I gave birth in December 2004 at Alta Bates. Overall, the experience was as good as I think it could be considering there were complications. Triage was very quick and my doula was welcomed; I think they see a LOT of doulas and people wanting natural birth. It's Berkeley, after all! Even my OB supported anything I wanted to do, and I had a good enough relationship with her to trust her when she said what needed to be done. I think that's pretty important and I was lucky enough to have my own OB/Gyn present at the birth, by chance. I spent all of early labor at home in the bathtub, but after going to 9 cm in the hallway on my way to my L room, I was all for the epidural. If you do go that route, the epidural guy was incredibly fast and was there in an instant or so it seemed, even at 9 cm! The only bummer was that they couldn't find a vein for the various fluids so my hands got prettty bruised, but then they called in this amazing woman and she got it on the first try. Wish I'd known about her. Then, once the birth started to go south (after 17 hours) the rush to the OR was done professionally and I feel our baby was very well taken care of.

My husband feels the same and he too felt well-taken care of when he was ''freaking out'' (his words). The staff kept him well-informed and even kepy my parents well- informed, who, unbeknownst to me were just outside my door. Word to the wise: do have some good long talks with your insurance company before delivery. I'm covered by a PPO plan and while the hospital itself was fully covered for both me and the baby, many of the caregivers (such as the neonatologists) contract separately and we are still receiving bills that we're partially responsible for. The post-partum nurses were great (I was on the 4thfloor, near the NICU) and EVERYONE encouraged breastfeeding, pumping breastmilk, and rooming-in with the baby. Overall, despite the fact that I ended up with an emergency C and a baby in the NICU for three days, when all was going great for the first 16 or so hours, I'd recommend Alta Bates as a good place to give birth. We are healthy and terrifically bonded and frankly that's all that matters, IMHO. I'm sure you'll get lots of different responses-- just as many different opinions as there are births! Good luck and enjoy your baby! Alta Bates is a-okay

I had both my boys at Alta Bates, amazing nurses who more or less were key to a great experience, drugs weren't offered, you had to ask so a ''natural'' (that would be a LOT of pain?)birth wouldn't be difficult-you can walk around and change position as much as you want if you are not hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor or have an iv in. The delivery rooms are nice, plenty of bench style seating to accomodate a couple people or a horizontal person. FYI I'd do some research on pain relief options so if all doesn't go according to plan you know what you'd like. Also I had an epidural at 8 cm( i was natural until then) It dropped the pain from a ''10'' to a ''5'', a welcome relief! but I had one at 4cm for # 2( I married an anesthesiologist) I had no pain from that point on... until stage 2 labor and then it was like being hit by a truck (at least a ten) The upside was that it only lasted ten minutes. My advice is if you are trying the natural thing and it truly is a lot of pain and you are small(under 6 cm) and it seems like a long labor I'd go with the epidural-the medicine doesn't enter the baby ever and you might enjoy the experience a little more... sydney

I delivered naturally at Alta Bates with minimal interventions (IV, periodic fetal monitoring, breaking of waters) in July of 2002. I found the nurses to be very supportive of natural childbirth. Be sure to have someone tell the nurses in triage that you want a natural birth. They will try to match you with a nurse who fits your needs. I was able to move around the entire time and spent much of my time in the shower. It helps to be pretty far along by the time you reach the hospital. I was 6 centimeters when I checked in.

I also had good feelings about Alta Bates in general. The year before I had major abdominal surgery there to remove fibroids that were preventing me from getting pregnant. I was very pleased with the care I received and that made me feel relaxed and confident once I reached the hospital to deliver.

We also had a doula. That helped my husband a lot to have another person to advocate for us during delivery. The nurses and doctors were great in interacting with the doula. I was able to to do whatever made me feel better during the delivery. It did not hurt as much as I had expected and I never really felt the need for pain medication. The pain relievers your body produces are amazing. The main thing that helped me was being relaxed and confident that I was receiving good care. That allowed me to focus on the birth experience. Good Luck to You! Julie

Hi Soon-To-Be Mom! My one and only son was born at Alta Bates 12-31-03. My experience was great. He was delivered by a scheduled c-section, by my neo-natologist. The care I received post-delivery was what I expected. The nurses were attentive, they respected my privacy and they were prompt when I needed them. If I had questions that warranted a response from my doctor, they made sure they followed up in a reasonable amount of time. Now mind you, this was MY experience. My sister and six other women I know, delivered their children at Alta Bates, all said they would deliver there again. Congrats and good luck!! Kelly

Congratulations! What a very exciting time for you...I had an early delivery of my son at 32 weeks and considering how fast and furious everything was the staff was very supportive of my desire to have no drugs, to change postions and have perenial (sp?) massage to avoid an episiotamy (sp? again!). All in all it was a very positive experience...Even the NICU which I hope with all my heart any pregnant woman NEVER has to experience was highly nurturing and very helpful. I never got to use it as my son was an early suprise but I had a birth plan all ready to rock and roll. I wish for you a very smooth and positive birth experience...Peace, Momma Z

Congratulations! We had 2 very positive birth experiences at Alta Bates, both without any medications/interventions. The staff were wonderful and very supportive. We had a doula with the second birth, which made the experience even better.

After several impersonal, extremely short visits with my OB during my 3rd pregnancy, I decided to transfer my care to The Birth Home in Pleasanton. It was our last pregnancy, and I wanted more nurturing care. I worried beforehand about transfering care, driving to Pleasanton for appts, etc. but these turned out to be non-issues. The prenatal care was extremely personal and caring, provided by highly skilled staff, and the birth experience was amazing and beautiful. Our insurance even covered the birth there.

When I arrived in labor at 2:30 in the morning, we were greeted with soft candlelight, beautiful music, and open arms. The Birth Home is a truly wonderful place and we had an amazing experience. If you have the opportunity you should check out the Birth Home (they have tours every Saturday). Good luck! happy mother of three

I gave birth to both my daughters at Alta Bates, one 3 years ago and the other one 4 months ago. I had c-sections with both of them. I didn't have any problems getting off the anesthesia the first time around, but I did this time, lots of tremors and shaking, and my friend had to insist and insist before the nurse called the Dr. and got me some demerol (instead of the morphine I was being given) that stopped them.

Recuperating, I was very happy with my experience with my first daughter but quite unhappy last time around. The difference? Nursing care. With my first child I was assigned a team of 2 nurses, one to take care of the baby and one to take care of me. The nurses made frequent visits to my room, they taught DH how to change diapers, they helped with brestfeeding and pumping, helped me get out of bed (after a c-section), encouraged me to walk, etc. This time around we only had 1 nurse which I only saw at the beginning of her shift. Half the time she'd pay no attention to the baby, they never changed a diaper, barely helped with anything and we had to be on top of my medical problems (rising blood pressure and intense pain). Some of the nurses were the same, but obviously they are much busier and are looking after many more patients now. I won't have another child, but if I did, it wouldn't be at Alta Bates. anon

Hi there, It seems that all the responses so far are very positive and I would like to provide a different perspective of Alta Bates L since I believe having all the info you can in a situation helps you make the best decisions for yourself.

As info, I delivered my first child (in 2001) at Mills Peninsula in Burlingame so I have a basis for comparison with another hospital. That experience was not at all what I expected (4 days of false, but very painful! labor, then pitocin, then epidural, but 15 mins of pushing so it all worked out fine in the end), but, in my opinion, the nurses, doctor and hospital were far superior to Alta Bates. I delivered my second child (in 2003) at Alta Bates and while it was a relatively quick, natural birth with no interventions (just what I wanted), it was a chaotic mess! Fortunately I had a doula who got me through it all (I would STRONGLY suggest you have a doula at Alta Bates). I arrived at 8 centimeters dialated (I had nightmares of being in labor for days and told to go home like last time so I probably waited longer than necessary!). In any case, the staff seemed completely incapable of dealing with a quick (from their perspective) labor and delivery. I arrived at 11:35pm and he was born at 12:02am. I remember laying in the bed during transition (in a bit of pain thank you very much!) watching not less than 8 people scurry around like chickens with their heads cut off and thinking - HELLO I'm having a baby here, does anybody care? Three different people came up to me and said that they would help until my nurse got there, she never did as best I can tell. I think it was a candy striper who tried to put the IV in (after several pokes it finally just fell out and my doula got it through to them that I had been drinking water and was hydrated enough to do without). Given the number of births at Alta Bates I was rather shocked that they could not deal with a quick L - maybe the night staff is not as well trained?? Who knows but they did insist I get up right away and of course I fainted (luckily my husband was there to catch me before I hit the floor!). Then since the baby was large, he needed glucose testing and the same blankity-blank person who couldn't do an IV, stuck him twice and couldn't get a proper blood sample which then turned into a battle because I wouldn't let her touch the baby again! Finally they got someone else who did it properly. But overall, it was not a particulary fun night.

The care after the birth was okay (we got a private room thank goodness or I can't imagine what that would have been like). Overall, and certainly in comparison to Mills Peninsula where you labor, deliver and recover all in one private room, it just did not impress me as a very good hospital. If I were having another baby, it would not be at Alta Bates.

Good Luck with your birth wherever you end up delivering... Not an Alta Bates fan

I had a pretty good birth experience at Alta Bates. It was an early C-section after several days of bleeding for which I was admitted. I had (mostly) nice nurses, some wonderful, and some of whom went above and beyond the call of duty. The one thing that was HORRIBLE was sharing a room after the birth of my son. The father of the baby in the other half of the room threatened me and my baby because my son cried sometimes. (Wow, a crying newborn, what a surprise.) I wouldn't let my husband leave to get help because I was scared to be alone with the man, even for a minute, and we didn't want to use the phone to summon help in case that provoked him even more. Once our nurse came in and saw what was happening, she had him escorted out by security and had us moved to a private room, but it was such an awful, stressful thing to go through. If you go with Alta Bates, spring for the private room! Anon

I just had to respond after reading the post about how a woman who had a very quick labor and delivery at Alta Bates had a bad experience, noting that they couldn't seem to handle a quick L I had the opposite experience--same timetable (delivered the baby within 1/2 hour of arriving at hospital), but the nurses were fantastic. Perhaps the difference was the time of day? I delivered around Noon, and the other poster delivered around Midnight, so maybe it is a difference in the quality of staff on different shifts. Just wanted to say that Alta Bates handled our quick delivery very well. Tracy

April 2005

My OB insists that her practice (Berkeley-Orinda Women's Health, sharing delivery call with ObGyn Fertility Group) doesn't have any hard and fast protocols regarding the timetable of labor and delivery. I asked specifically: 1) how long after my water breaks do you want to have the baby delivered, and 2) how long will you let me push? She says that it depends on many factors, and that's why they don't say specific things like ''Baby must be born within 12 hours of your water breaking'' or ''No more than 5 unproductive hours of pushing before C-section.''

Does anyone know if this can really be true? I will be giving birth at Alta Bates, and I suspect *they* must have timing protocols, even if these two offices don't.

All experiences and/or information welcome (about these specific practices or Alta Bates). I'm scared of getting caught in some doctor's perception of ''failure to progress'' where I end up being induced without a true need. Don't Want the Clock Ticking

I delivered at Alta Bates last summer and your OB is right - there are no hard and fast protocols and the timing of events depends on a variety of factors (i.e. whether or not your water is clear when it breaks, etc.). I ended up having a vaginal delivery almost 48 hours after my water broke (my water was not clear). I also pushed for at least 5 hours. During that time, there was never any mention or pressure to have a C section, though I believe that was because all the nurses and my OB knew I wanted to have a vaginal birth. It is important to talk to your OB prior to labor and delivery - maybe you could draft a birth plan and discuss it with her ahead of time so you feel more comfortable going into the hospital. All in all, I was incredibly happy with my experience at Alta Bates due in most part to my OB calling the shots and knowing exactly what I wanted. Good luck! new mama

I delivered at Alta Bates 4 years ago. Regarding the question of how long after water breaks should the baby be born: My water broke one morning at about 6:30 am (with no labor). I went to Alta Bates, and was told I could either be induced then, or could go home and wait for 24 hours to see if labor would start. My choice. If labor didn't start within 24 hours, they told me that I should be induced (as water breaking apparently raises the risk of a number of problems developing) -- but not that the baby had to be actually born within X hours of my water breaking. Karen

I LOVE my OB/Gyn who is at Berkeley Orinda, so I won't name names. Nevertheless, I had what proved to be a rather traumatic delivery at Alta Bates (and I'm not even talking about the part where I got stuck in the elevator for a while during labor). I really think it retrospect I could have used an experienced doula or midwife to guide along. For example, my son was sunny side up and I had enormous pain very quickly. Only later did I learn that it takes a while for the endorphins to kick in. Instead, I just kept thinking that if it was that bad so early, what was I going to do as labor progressed? Perhaps a good midwife could have determined the position and explained that it would get easier. Instead, I begged for an epidural. They then broke my water, which I later found out means that you can introduce an infection when checking for dilation. they do this to hurry you along, even though at that point it was still going quickly. My labor stalled out (the pediatrician later said it sounded like a dehydration problem), they put me on pitocin. Meanwhile, I had developed some kind of a systemic infection (they think) and my whole body was shaking uncontrollably. My OB never pressured me to get a C-section, but did suggest that studies showed it was unlikely my labor would progress after being stalled for so long. And, it looked like my baby was in distress at that point from the infection. Anyway, we'll never know what happened, although I have since heard this story over and over from friends who've gone through the same thing. Again, I really liked my OB; I don't blame her exactly. I just wish I had been better informed with an advocate by my side. People rave about the nurses there--they were fine, but not very helpful in helping or preventing my own situation. I really needed an experience midwife or doula. Naomi Wolf's book talks about similar birth experiences and has some suggestions, by the way. good luck! hope this doesn't scare you...

I gave birth three times under the OBGyn Fertility group - Alta Bates protocol. The first time, I was two weeks overdue and had lots of stress tests and scans for amniotic fluid levels before they would induce me. And boy was I begging to be induced. You can't know how you're going to feel about this until you're 42 weeks pregnant with a 10 lb baby, trust me. The induction took a while but went fine.

With my second, I went into labor naturally after a rather intense office exam at 40 weeks - again, boy was I ready! - and while at the hospital, my labor dropped off a bit. They asked me if I'd like some pitocin to speed things back up, but I didn't feel pressured and I opted not to. Things sped back up on their own and I delivered within an hour of the question.

With my third I had prodomal labor and my labor stopped and started for days. But, again, no protocols and I delivered naturally.

I just want to point why there might be protocols. A friend of mine labored too long (also at Alta Bates) and finally had to have an emergency C due to distress of the baby. The baby's head was well descended into the birth canal & the c-section was anything but straighforward. Lots of pushing, pulling & tugging - and the baby was severely distressed. The jury is still out on whether she'll be developmentally normal. So protocols develop for a reason. If at any time they'd told me my baby was in any distress I'd have done whatever they recommended. I think we get too focused on having our ideal labor experience rather than the healthy baby that should be the real focus. 3x mama

I had a c-section at Alta Bates. How long the doctor will let you labor does depend on a bunch of factors---are you progressing (is cervix dilating), are you developing a fever, or other sign of possible infection which can harm baby, is the baby showing signs of distress (doctor can tell by looking at a monitor). If there any signs of fetal distress or possible infection,a c-section can help ensure healthy delivery of the baby. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule about how long you can labor, as long as you and the baby are ok. maybe a doctor wants to chime in here? all's well that ends well

I delivered at Alta Bates in 4/03, and the nurses there told me that the protocol was to let people push for 3 hours with an epidural and 2 without. That said, they let me push for close to 6 hours because I really didn't want a c-section and was waiting for a specific OB to come on duty who would do a forceps delivery instead. In the end, I'm not sure that was the best choice on my part, but the nurses were very willing to respect my wishes and help me do things the way I wanted to. Hope this helps. Cathy

i can't answer your specific question about labor & delivery protocols at berkeley-orinda women's health: my first pregnancy ended in an emergency c-section caused by a placental abruption, and my second progressed just fine to an unmedicated vaginal delivery. however, i can tell you that i trust the OBs at BOWH completely, largely because they trusted me as a patient throughout both pregnancies. i never felt pushed into any procedure i didn't want (including an amnio) and i entered labor fully confident that my wishes would be honored throughout the process. because of this, when dr. sakamoto told me i needed a c-section with baby #1, i trusted his judgment, and when i attempted a vbac with baby #2, i knew the doctors would trust mine. i think ultimately that the OBs' stated protocol matters much less than your confidence that they will always work with you to decide what's in your and your baby's best interests. if you don't feel you have this level of confidence in the OBs at BOWH, perhaps you should look elsewhere. as far as i'm concerned, though, those are some damn fine doctors. janice

sounds like you have a lot of fear about giving birth. as a mother of 2 both born at alta bates (one less than 1 month ago) and an RN, there are a couple of general recommendations I'd like to give you. first read Birthing from Within, and second get a doula - you can look at all the reasons why you should get a doula in the archives - I had judy ballinger at both my births, highly recommended.

anxiety can be your worst enemy during labor and delivery, not that you shouldn't have any (not possible), but that your should feel psychologically comfortable enough so it doesn't take over. that being said, let me speak to your specific concerns. any specific time limits that you speak of for pushing and for labor after the water has broken would be dangerous if applied to everyone without regard to individual situations. many doctors get nervous if you are not fully dilated by 20 or 24 hours after the water has broken because of the danger of infection. so they take your temperature and maybe draw some blood to see if your white cell count is rising. if they want to induce or ''augment'' ask if there are signs of infection. you can always say no, you can always ask them to leave for a few minutes while you discuss it with your partner, doula etc. this goes for anything doctors want to do with patients in the hospital - theres lots of pressure to conform without questioning but you as the patient always have the final say.

the other question about pushing I found a little confusing - labor progresses while you're dilating. you don't push until you are fully dilated - they check you and tell you when you can push. if your labor goes on and on and it doesn't progress that means your dilating very slowly, they may think about augmentation (basically induction as far as I can tell except the labor has already started) but again there are other factors like your own comfort level, fatigue, and preferences. if you are very tense sometimes pain meds can help you relax and things move along, but sometimes they slow things down or stall the labor out.

if you push and push and the baby isn't coming, it may be the position of the baby or it stuck behind a bone. there are many low tech things you can do before and during labor to help things go smoothly. exercises, positions, breathing techniques, pressure points, pain control techniques (the book I mentioned has some good ones), etc. some of these are things you can learn from a doula. a doula can also help you make decisions in the hospital and make sure your wishes are respected - they do not make decisions for you but they might suggest some questions to ask if you are unsure about what to do. birth is very individual and there is no way to know ahead of time how things will go. you have to be flexible and let it happen - noone is in control of the process but your body knows what to do, trust it. ilona_who [at]

You're asking your doctor all the RIGHT questions! Very funny this questions came up! I delivered at Alta Bates (AB) last month and had a great experience!

My water broke the morning of my due date. It was a mere trickle and I wasn't positive that it was my water. My midwife sent me to AB to get checked out... yes it was the water, no, I'm not having contractions and yes, the baby's heartrate is just fine! I'm convinced having a midwife made all the difference! I'm fairly sure that if I had stayed with my OB (from whom I switched 5 days before my due date!), my labor would have been induced with pitocin that day at AB. Instead, my midwife, Jeri Zukoski, told me to go home and make a special castor oil omlette the next morning. 2 hours after eating the omlette, the contractions began. Long story short, my son was born 41 hours after my water broke! Feel free to contact me. I'm skipping a lot of the details here. susan

I had a picture perfect natural childbirth at Alta Bates last month! I think key to my delivery was that I had a fantastic doula, Virginia Duplessis, and a supremely talented midwife, Jeri Zukoski. I think when I was admitted, the L staff saw that Jeri was going to deliver my baby (and that I had requested a natural childbirth in my birth plan) so they assigned L nurses that are supportive and encouraging of natural childbirth.

>From what I hear, you're already ahead of the game by delivering at AB. They're very open to alternative deliveries. The epidural rate is less than half at AB compared to John Muir (90%!).

BTW, I'm hetero, so I can't address that part of your question. But the hospital staff was very kind and can't imagine them treating non-heteros any differently. Feel free to contact me. susan

Feb 2005

Re: childbirth in San Francisco (Feb 2005)
I know you did not ask this directly, and you may already have a doula, but justed wanted to share from my 2 births at Alta Bates where my birth plan was similar as yours- no unnecessary interventions and preferably no drugs- there was a wide range of nurses present each with their own philosophy and ability to be respectful of my birth plan and I would not have been able to proceed the way I wanted (and no interventions became necessary)without the support and advocacy from my doula and also CNM-midwife. They were invaluable advocates and intermediaries to the hospital staff. also I found myself temporarily changing my mind about no drugs at a few moments and actually too late, and the doula helped me stay focused and knew how to differentiate that it was just at the moment and still overall not what I wanted and that I was managing well- plus it was too late; whereas I beleive some of the nurses would have conceded to my request as a matter of litigious obligation. Sorry I don't know about the hospitals in SF but juste wanted to share what helped me in having 2 hospital births in the ''manner'' which I chose.... Best wishes.... happy natural hospital birther

Stories from 2004

Delivering at Alta Bates without a doula

Mar 2004

i'm hoping that i will be able to have a second natural delivery at alta bates and wondered what other people's experiences have been without the support of a doula or midwife. i had a fabulous doula the first time, which pretty much left the nurses with nothing to do but check my monitor readings. for financial reasons, i may have to forego a doula this time, which makes me a little nervous. there are some old postings about the pluses and minuses of alta bates nurses in the archive, but nothing recent. can i expect the alta bates nurses to massage my back, encourage unusual birthing poses, talk me through my contractions, etc as my doula had? anon

if the issue is not being able to afford a doula, there are many doulas-in-training, including myself, who might be able to help you. I know for my certification I need to attend 4 births for free. this is after taking a didactic training &/or observing other births. so if you have a little extra time & feel comfortable with a birth attendant who doesn't have as much experience, you could contact places like Birthways & Waddle and Swaddle, who might have leads of doula students. or possibly post here. (I'd also be happy to talk to you). alta bates has volunteer doulas, but I am not sure what the criteria is to get one (maybe uninsured?) & I don't think they are there all the time. good luck, virginia

I just delivered my third child at alta bates. I had a natural birth each time and did not have a doula. What I did have was a birth team. Two of my best friends, my mother-in-law, and my husband were there for all three births. My husband and I wrote up a birth plan and shared it with ''the team'' in advance. It was great to have that much support, if you have people that you trust, they can really help out. The other bonus for them is an increased closeness with your children. As far as the nurses go, we brought copies of our plan with us to the hospital and talked to the nurses about our goals. I found that they were very supportive of no drugs and no intervention. The other thing is that with your second birth, your body knows more about what to do and you don't need to rely on the nurse as much.

I would recommend being very vocal about your needs. They can bring a rocking chair into your room and can find a birthing ball also. One of the nurses that I had told me that they are especially eager to help women deliver without intervention. I was very pleased with the L nurses that I encountered. Good Luck. Joan

Hi there- I have attended a few births at alta bates as a doula, one was a client of mine and the rest were volunteer births that I did there. If you go into labor and come into the hospital, you can request that one of the volunteer doulas in their program be called to come and assist you... the only downfall is that there is no guarantee that someone is actually on call during the time you might be there. I have had good experiences with nurse there and I've had experiences there that weren't so awesome, but overall the atmosphere is good. As far as your question about ''Will the nurses be able to rub my back and get you into other positions...'' My answer is NO- it had seemed to me that in the cases where I was there, if I hadn't have been there these moms might have been a whole lot more uncomfortable because the instances I was there they were really busy and couldn't lend TOO much help in the comfort dept. If you would like to speak with me privately please email me- maybe we can work something out together... Shaana Keller

My second child was born two years ago at AB without a doula. I had a doula for the first one there many years ago, and although she was available, she didn't feel I needed her. My labor nurse was fantastic. Someone (I think my OB) said that all the nurses at AB are pro natural-birth and really go out of their way to support a laboring mother who wants to do it. I didn't ask for advice from her and she didn't offer any. My OB was there for much of the hard part but tried to keep in the background as much as he could.

If you feel confident about your own knowledge and experience (I reread the book my natural birth method was based on before going into labor) then my guess is that you'll have a good experience unless you think your OB may be the problem. anonymous

I'm a L nurse at Alta Bates -- you can get this kind of care, but when you come in to have your child, please tell the triage nurse that you want a nurse who will provide labor support for you. There are nurses on every shift who enjoy doing this (I'm one of them) but not all do. On the other hand, to make a general statement (not about you), it helps to not come into the hospital with a strict birth plan, to be flexible, and don't bring in a whole lot of stuff with you to the labor room. L staff have universal folklore/superstitions about this -- patients like this seem to have a high csection rate. Don't know if retrospective studies have born this out or not, but everywhere I've worked in the country over the past 15 years, same superstition. I lump this in with the superstitions about the full moon that health care providers have. So speak up and tell the staff what you want! Hopefully you are also seeing one of the OB-Gyns who only perform interventions when absolutely needed. Good luck and we'll see you in the future! anon RN

I delivered at Alta Bates and found the nurses to be WONDERFUL. I opted for an epidural, but when it didn't work (!), they talked me through the contractions and breathing and positions to be mroe comfortable. Also, both nurses stayed long past their shift to see my daughter delivered. anon

When I delivered at Alta Bates in the summer of 2002, they had a program whereby you could request a doula at no charge upon being admitted, and if there was one available she would come and assist you throughout your labor. I think these were doulas in training. I wanted to use the service, but my daughter was born 20 minutes after we got to the hospital (!) so there was no time. Even though I was only in labor there for a short time, the nurses were awesome and I had a wonderful experience. Once my baby was born, she stayed with me until we left the next day, except for the bath and eyedrops. I know at other hospitals, they tend to keep coming to take the baby. This happened to me at California Pacific in SF with my first born (not a good experience - but thats another story!).

Anyway, you should contact the L dept. at Alta Bates and inquire about the free doula program to see if it is still available. If you don't get one, rest assured that the nurses will take good care of you. mom of 2

I delivered at Alta Bates with a doula 20 months ago and couldn't imagine delivering without one. I had always heard that the delivery nurses there were great and not to worry about a doula, but my experience was otherwise. If I had known then what I know now, I would have immediately requested another nurse because the first nurse assigned to me was clearly anti-natural birth and it affected everything that followed. My doula was very supportive, but she didn't know the nurse. After the delivery, we discussed that we should have requested a different nurse. I know now that she has a reputation. Incidently, the second shift nurse wasn't able to do much more than check the monitors. The third shift nurse was great, but things had gotten complicated by then. (You can see I was there awhile, but that's a whole other story.) If you can't afford a doula, make sure you're very clear when you arrive at Alta Bates that you want a nurse assigned to you who likes working with natural delivery. Lori

I think you just can't get a broad generalization about the nurses at Alta Bates. I had no doula and was in labor long enough to have 2 different nurses. They were each different (one was very quiet, the other very gregarious) and each had their own approach, but I was impressed by their knowlege. So whereas I liked their personalities, you might not. One of our nurses had been working there for 27 years and had seen it all. I started out w/ back labor and the nurse showed me positions and things to do to get the baby to move. Both nurses had a plethora of great suggestions, like try this position, or now is a good time to try going in the shower, etc. I seem to remember one showing my husband a better way to rub my back. I suggest you take the birth preparation class AT Alta Bates - I think there is one for 2nd time parents as in those classes they do touch on what to expect out of the staff that is there and what is available there at the hosptial - you can get a rocker in your room, you can get a bouncing ball, etc. One thing I remembered at the class is that they stressed that if you weren't happy w/ your nurse, you could always request to have a different one assigned to you. But keep in mind that unlike a doula that is there the whole time w/ you, if you're in labor for a long time the nurses will change shift to shift. In anycase, you might be able to find a doula student who is willing to work w/ you for little or no pay as they need the experience. anon

Hi, I had a great, drug-free birth experience at AB without a doula. When I arrived at triage, I told the nurses that I wanted to attempt a drug-free delivery ( I did *not* have a ''birth plan'' b/c frankly, I didn't know what I was planning for!). When I was transferred into a laboring room, and remember the person telling me that I was getting the best nurse I could hope for-- and she was right--my nurse (''Brooke'') was nothing less than wonderful. She stayed with me nearly every second of my 9-hr labor: she helped me in the shower, she applied accupressure to my feet (and explained how to do same to my mom and husband), she used visual relaxation, she had me try different positions. She also did all the other stuff (IV, fetal monitor, etc), but I hardly remember those things. In short, I can't imagine my birth experience without her. She was the most crucial person for me that day, period.

All of those great things notwithstanding, I'll probalby hire a doula the next time around. I now know how important an excellent support person is, and I would be too nervous not to be so lucky again!

Someone has already given this suggestion, but I'll repeat it again, when you arrive, be clear about your hopes and desires and they will try to match a nurse that is experienced in providing this type of labor care. Good luck! Nina

Re: Natural Birth Dr Thomas @ Alta Bates (May 2004)

Hi, I'm not familiar with Dr. Thomas, but did want to comment on natural birth at Alta Bates. I had my son nearly there three years ago, and I just had another baby at Summit. Both were drug-free deliveries, with two different OBs. In neither case did anyone pressure me AT ALL about having drugs; both docs and all the nurses were extremely supportive and didn't bring up drugs at all after I told them I didn't want any. They encouraged me to walk, move around, find any position comfortable throughout my labors (though frankly this ended up being mostly lying in bed because I hurt too much to move). At Summit, I noticed that in the bathroom of my delivery room there was a page posted on the door--apparently written by a Summit doc--that listed all the benefits of breastfeeding and was, at least to my ear, a bit of a rant against bottlefeeding. I had the sense I'd be severely lectured if I didn't breastfeed. So as far as being supported in your quest for a ''natural'' delivery, I'd say--don't worry about it. From what I've experienced, you'll be able to walk or squat or swing from a bar--pretty much whatever feels right to you. The nurses are kind people, and they don't seem to have any sort of agenda about drugs or getting you to assume some particular position. But don't be surprised if you get to the pushing stage and all you want to do is lie down! :-) Good luck. Drug-free mama

I don't know Dr. Thomas but I did have a drug free birth at Alta Bates. The first thing they did was offer me a studying Doula - I got the impression it was because I wanted a drug free birth which surprised me this being Berekely and all. I declined having 5 people in the room already. I brought a birth plan typed up with me and gave it to my nurse and asked she put it in my chart which she did. Discuss what you want with your doc way ahead of time so they know your wishes. My doc, Carol Gerdes in Alameda wanted me to have the birth experince I wanted and even though she seemed a little skeptical of the whole Bradley thing she was supportive of my choices. I think taking a natural birth class is really important so you can go in educated. I never understood my friends who'd take a whole semester of contemporary jazz but only a day long course on having a baby! Talk to other mommys about what they did during their births to get good technique advice. For me it was all about the hot shower-wow what a relief. After 12 hours and 19 minutes of pushing my son came out looking us all over , alert and nursing. They let him stay with me for an hour before putting those drops in his eyes so we had some good up front bonding time. Get the private room if you can afford the $300 a night sticker price. It was dreadful on my second night having to share a room with a stranger. The other thing to consider is going to The Birth Home in Pleasanton- it's all about natural birth there and you can have a water birth or have the baby standing on your head if you want- I would if my baby's grandpa wasn't the doc over there. The last piece of advice I'd give is this: the important thing is a healthy mommy and a healthy baby- how you get there is less important so if you wind up having to get some type of intervention don't let yourself feel like you've failed in some way. I loved having my son without drugs but it was hard and painful and I certainly get why women decide to go with the epi. If you'd like to discuss this further or whatever you are welcome to email me. Good luck and happy birthing - it is absolutely the most amazing experience of your life! Juliette

December 2001

My son was born there on 11/01/01 and our experience was good. The people working in L seemed to be a friendly, competent bunch, and I enjoyed everyone I met in the Family Care Center, too... The assumptions are that you'll be breastfeeding, that the baby will stay with you in the room at night unless there's some problem. The food was ok, and I was grateful NOT to be going home in 24 hours. My first room-mate (of two) was a complete jerk who spent most of her time on the phone complaining (mostly lies, from what I witnessed) about the care she received. I don't think the staff can be held responsible for her behavior -- they DID find her a free car-seat for her baby, when it was time to go home and she was nasty about that too. At Alta Bates you have the option of a private room, but the difference in cost was prohibitive for us. All in all, a positive experience. Heather

I gave birth at Alta Bates this past May, and felt very good about the nurses and the facilities there. Also, I had an epidural and the person who did it ws wonderful--I had none of the troubles one is led to expect from this. My one piece of advice is to get a private room if at all possible. Karen

If you have no comparison most say it is fine. I unfortunately gave birth to my first child at California Pacific Medical Center in SF. That was an incredible experience. Alta BAtes on the other was less wonderful. The nurses are okay, but ask for what you want and demand it, b/c the forget or just don't bother. Whether it be medication or an epidural. If you don't want an epideral fine, but if you have to fight to get it and to get enough. Also, security was something to be desired. You will be told not to let your baby go with anyone who does not have the proper badges. One of the nurses never wore her badge. I even reported her and nothing was done, she said her clasp broke. Then she was the one who walked me out. They are suppose to check both security bracelets on the baby with yours and she did not. i could have had anyones baby. anonymous please

We had our baby at Alta Bates in August, but through Kaiser. (we thought that Kaiser's system of residents doing deliveries was more than scary). We did work with the A.B. nursing staff - about 5 different nurses - in several capacities and really liked all but one of them. We had more of a natural-as-possible birth philosophy, and felt very supported by the nurses - including helping us to advocate for ourselves when the MDs had different inclinations. The birthing rooms were nice, they have 2 gardens that you can access if you want to go outside while in labor, the post-partum care was terrific. You can pre-register, so entry into the system is seamless. The biggest criticism is of course the post-partum room. $285/night if you want a private room. Wrong for all sorts of reasons. Good luck! HK

I just delivered my first child at Alta Bates on December 1st. I was in the hospital for 5 days and nights and had a variety of nurses treat me. They had to induce labor and it took nearly 4 days to happen and I almost had a C-section because the baby was so late. Overall, between the ob/gyn docs in my practice and the nurses, I have to say the care was excellent. Some nurses are definitely more proactive than others and I have to give credit to one of them at the end, who wasn't afraid to crank up the Pitocin pump a little extra high and FINALLY I went into labor at 2AM on the 4th day. My labor nurse was also fantastic. My only complaint is with one pediatric nurse, who neglected to pull us out of a childcare class when our pedes. doc arrived after my husband talked to her 3 times. She also discharged us without the baby getting certain lab tests done, so we had to go back the next day. It will be documented as an incident in her record and they gave free parking when we returned. I would go back. Alta Bates delivers 600 babies a month -- they know what they are doing. - Irene

My son, Gregory, was born at Alta Bates on October 25. My first child, Maggie, was born 2 1/2 years ago at Mount Sinai in New York. I thought the two experiences were comparable. I am not a big fan of hospitals, but I would never choose to have a child outside of one for safety reasons. I also feel that the birth experience is just a door to be passed through between being pregnant and having a child. So, I did not have a lot of specific goals other than going home with a healthy child. That said, my experience was good. I went through triage quite quickly, the only problem being that they couldn't locate my records for a long time (but that didn't hold things up). The anesthesiologist was excellent -- he had a very pleasant manner and was there right when I needed him (no small feat for a busy labor floor). And the labor and delivery nurse was fabulous. She was very supportive and had lots of suggestions for me in a lengthy pushing process (for a 9 1/2 pound baby with a large head). All but one of the nurses I saw after my delivery were terrific as well. I found them very responsive (they give you individual phone numbers to call) and helpful. I didn't feel I needed as much help as the first time around, but the help I needed was readily available. I asked to be discharged after one night (about 24 hours after the birth) because I thought I would get more rest at home (like all hospitals, there are a lot of people around who want to perform various tests on you and the baby at all hours). Everyone was very helpful in making that happen, which I appreciated. Stephanie

In response to your inquiry about giving birth at Alta Bates: My husband and I were referred to Alta Bates by Kaiser for the birth of our son. He was born in June 2000. Our experience was great. My labor was long (38 hours) and ended in a c-section. As a result of the c-section, we stayed in the hospital following the birth for 4 days. So we had a good opportunity to sample Alta Bates' services. I really look back on our stay with fond feelings. During the labor, we essentially had one-on-one care from the nursing staff. Altho' they got pretty busy as my labor progressed, we had one nurse with us almost non-stop for each shift, and we cycled back to the first and second ones towards the end of the labor. The nursing staff was amazing. They were so kind and attentive. On the day after our son was born, the nurses came in to to check on him and us. Their caring and kindness meant a tremendous lot to me at the time, and to my husband. Our doctors also were great. We had never met them before the birth - but they were kind and attentive, and followed up with us after the birth. We also made great use of the lactation consultants on staff during our stay - and that was a big help, as I had some trouble getting started.

In planning for the birth, I had not really expected that a private room would be necessary - but after the long labor and the c-section, we splurged and asked for one. My husband was able to stay with me the whole time as a result on a fold out bed. That was a great comfort. Alta Bates also had a little fridge in the nurses lounge with juice and snacks, and my husband went in there often to get us small supplies. Over all, it was a very good experience. I hope that yours is as well. All the best! DM

I gave birth at Alta Bates in December of 1997 and March of this year. Both times the actual birth experience was great. The first time I had a high-risk birth (pre-eclampsia) and the high-risk nurses were fabulous and supported my decision to go without an epidural (although I had other drugs to manage the pre-eclampsia). The second time I had a very low-risk birth and I had a wonderful doula. Both times, my childbirth class instructor, Patty, was on duty too, which was lovely. The second time, however, I also had contact with labor nurses that I didn't like (they couldn't believe I wanted natural childbirth, got pissy when I refused an IV hook-up, sort of droned, just breathe, just breathe when I was already 7 cm dilated and long past just breathing, etc). But I just concentrated on my doula and Patty and my OB, who I adore; the yucky nurses s disappeared (I think they were banished to the yucky nurse room); and I gave birth totally naturally, and, again, feeling very supported.

Both times, however, I found the post-partum care to be pretty bad. The first time the night nurses were giving me all sorts of competing information about breastfeeding, which was extremely confusing for a new mother. Also, they left my IV in long after it should have been unhooked. The second time I had no IV, so that wasn't an issue. But there were no diapers or wipes on the cart and I had to go out to the nurse's station several times to request them. One nurse also spilled juice all over my floor the first night and despite my repeated calls, no one came to clean it up. So by the next morning I was tracking sticky juice all over the floor, which attracted dirt, which was just gross, given that I had just had a baby and wanted things to be clean. (Of course, the baby wasn't on the floor; it's just a psychological thing.) Also, someone took my ice pack away after a few hours and never replaced it with another, when I think the mom is supposed to use one for 24 hours.

That said, both times I had one post-partum nurse who was great, so I guess it's luck of the draw. And because the birth experiences were so lovely, I'd go there again in a heartbeat, but I'd bring diapers, wipes, a mop, ice packs, and maybe have my doula stop by for an extra visit to help with breastfeeding!

Our baby was born 10/5/01, with Kaiser doctors. We did not have a good experience. Although we'd met some very kind nurses on visits, the one we got for delivery mostly ignored us, spending most of her time typing on her computer. The doctor seemed nervous. On a previous visit, I asked for a copy of their default birth plan - that is, what they will do if you don't request otherwise. The nurse said that there was nothing she could give me! You will discover, however, when the unexpected begins to happen, that there is a plan for everything, but you will not be told what is optional, what is recommended but not mandatory, and what they will absolutely refuse to do. And, as others have said, the non-private recovery rooms are hell! Dan

October 2001

I am interested in hearing birthing experiences from those who have delivered at Alta Bates in the last year or two. The stories on the Website are almost all from 1998 and previous. My doctor deliveries there and I am interested in hearing what it is like. I would be grateful for any information you'd be comfortable sharing. Thanks! Please email me privately if it would be more comfortable. Riportner

I had both my babies there, one year ago and three years ago and had very positive experiences. Most of the nurses were absolute gems, although I did get my doula to ask one nurse who I didn't like, to be replaced. But I had so many nurses in the course of the both labors and delivery, and was well taken care of. I used a mid-wife and liked how the hospital worked in harmony with my birth team. Also, after delivering my big (BIG) boy, I was bleeding and a doctor there found the problem (my cervix had a tear) and took care of it. It was a scary moment for me, and the doctor was obviously very competent. And the the after delivery care was fabulous....again...the nurses. Good luck. Irene

I gave birth to my son (first child) at Alta Bates 10 months ago. I was very happy with the professional services provided by the staff. I had a nurse assigned to me who answered questions and attended to my needs. She was aware of my wishes in terms of how the birth went (if I wanted painkillers or not etc.) and encouraged me along those lines. My husband, mother and sister where there with me and this was ok with staff. I stayed in the same room after the birth and held my son immediately after the birth and was given time to bond with him. Later I was transfered to a private room in which my husband could stay. The baby was also there all night. The nurses who came in and checked on me and my son were warm, friendly and available to help me with breastfeeding and to answer questions. If I have another child I will definitely go there again. I would suggest taking the tour prior to the birth. It helped reduce my anxiety. Andrea

I had my baby at AltaBates in Berkeley in Jan 2000 and my experience was very good. Though my triage nurse was very rough and callous ( I literally felt violated when she examined me), the nurses who were with me were very comforting, gentle and knowledgeable. One even stayed back after her shift ended at 7AM just so she could cheer me on and see the baby. I was moved to a private room in a couple hours after delivery ( which duration I didnt feel at all since I fell asleep after I delivered the baby). I thought my postpartum care pretty good too- I had a lactation consultant visit me everyday and a pump in my room since my baby didnt latch on immediately. I had nurses come in at regular intervals ( I think 2ce or 3ce in the night) to check ont he baby and the hospital supplied everything from baby clothes to alcohol swabs. I know from the '98 posts that experiences were all over the graph, but mine was fortunately a happy one.

I gave birth to my daughter in June 2000 at Alta Bates. I had a very difficult labor (18 hrs) which ended in an emergency c-section, so you can imagine I saw many shift changes. In general I thought the labor nurses were excellent--attentive, professional, caring. The anesthesiologist was also top-notch (I had an epidural about 3/4 way through the labor) and offered some true comic relief as he pointed out the contrast between the pre-epidural yelling and screaming and our post-epidural casual conversation about Internet startups. The cesarean I won't go into because it was most unpleasant (though very professionally handled). Recovery was in a different area--I highly recommend getting a private room--and there, the nurses and staff were much more varied in their quality. There were times I wondered who trained these people, and times I was encouraged by their creativity in providing recovery care. If you're breastfeeding, it's a good idea to get a lactation consultant (most insurance will cover it if it's at the hospital, as opposed to after you go home), rather than depending on the nurses there, since they don't always have certification or training in lactation. They do follow your instructions how you wish to feed your baby (breast only, formula only, etc), and if you need a break to sleep they will take your baby to the nursery. I think overall Alta Bates is an excellent facility, and I'll be going there again in February to have our 2nd child...good luck! Katherine

We just had our baby at Alta Bates in July. The labor was quite long and we went through three nurses and two teams of dr.s (Kaiser Dr.'s stationed at Alta Bates). The nurses were the best. They are all very supportive and listen to your concerns and wishes. The first team of dr.s was good as well, but the second team came in just to deliver our son and they were not very helpful at all. They didn't tell us when he was crowning so I didn't get to see him being delivered, and they did not tell us anything that was going on, so I had no clue what they were doing. However, the experience as a whole was great, and as I said the nurses are wonderful, and really they are the ones that are with you through the whole thing. melwood

I delivered at Alta Bates in January '01. I intended to have a waterbirth at home, but after two days labor was not progressing and I was 10 days post-date. They put me in a labor room right away and did not insist on the usual intake exam near the check-in desk, which was a relief. Although many of the nurses and doctors seemed friendly when they came in to introduce themselves, I was distracted by the constant change. It got to be ridiculous--the main interaction with the staff was this constant stream of introductions when I really didn't feel very social. I ended up with an epidural and a C-section. One person stayed in the room to read the monitors to track my and the baby's health. When the doctor came on that wanted to do the C-section, I heard her disputing or explaining to the monitor-watcher over the meaning of the traces. Was the baby in distress or not? The epidural did not reduce some really severe pain I was having in my lower back. The anathesiologist was called several times to up my dose. Although I called the hospital later and left several messages for this person, she never called me back. I still don't know if I was given high doses or why I still felt such severe pain. I need to know this in case we have another child. I don't know who my doctor was or who actually did my surgery. We wanted cord blood collected, and tried to explain that to all the right people. However, although the collection kit said to try to get 80 mls, whoever did the collection only got 11 mls. Did they do it right away or was it forgotten and done much later? I don't know. I was left in recovery for 4 hours because there was no room in the ward to put me anywhere else, although I actually recovered quite quickly and could have been moved after an hour. The recovery room nurse was not intelligent and kept on insisting that she could not help us get the cord blood picked up by the special courier. All we needed was access to a phone so we could call the courier, and the location of where exactly the box was so he could pick it up. Even more disapointing, my extended time in recovery meant that I could not be with my baby during those important first bonding hours. I was alone, wondering what could possibly be so wrong with my precious baby. My husband was staying with the baby during this time. When I was finally moved to the private room we had requested, it was tiny and very hot. A nurse told us that it was the worst private room they had--whoever got it always complained, justifiably in her mind. Several nurses told us that it was impossible to adjust the temperature correctly in that room, they called the facilities man, who diddled with something, but the nurses said that everyone just left the door open all the time to try to get some cool air in. So much for privacy! The bed and the pillows were all covered in plastic, so everything stuck to my sweaty skin and was uncomfortable. I wanted to get the IV taken out, and was told that I could only do it after several oral doses of a drug had been given. I tracked those carefully, because I wanted the IV out. I am sure that there was a mistake made in my chart about those doses. They did not accurately record what I had been given. When I finally got the IV out, the nurse was so clumsy that I made her stop and did it myself. She kept on poking the port in and out of the vein again and again--out into the air then back into my body. I was sure I was going to get an infection. Two more memories arise: it didn't occur to either my husband or I that we could refuse to have them wake the baby for their checks. The nurses have these charts they are supposed to fill in, and they could care less if you and the baby just went to sleep. They just barge in every three hours, introduce themselves (more introductions!) then take their measurements. If the baby is ill, this might be necessary, but after a slow start, our baby was fine. It really didn't feel like their priority was us having a good beginning. I had the C-section on Friday morning and left on Sunday afternoon, knowing I would be much more comfortable at home, even though we had no relatives to help us and no previous experience with babies. Oh--they only give you pain medication if you request it, and you must request each dose. Although they set an appointment up for the baby's first check-up, no appointment with any doctor was set up for me. I guess you get the picture--my birth experience was devastating and contributed to some pretty severe postpartum depression. Medically there are many unresolved questions in my mind about why my labor didn't progress, what drugs I was given and what, if anything, is likely to be repeated if we risk getting pregnant again. I don't even know who to ask. Kimberly

I gave birth to my first child in August of 1999. The labor and delivery nurses were excellent, kind and helpful. I highly recommend paying out of pocket($175/day) for a private room after you deliver. Private rooms are given based on who delivers first - so you might have to wait in a double room until one is available. The quality of post delivery nursing care we rcvd greatly improved with a private room - I have no idea why. I came out of a C-section into a double room only to join a feisty 15 yr old teenage mom, with her 5 loud friends, phone conversations and the t.v. blaring Jenny Jones. It was my worst nightmare. After 42 hours of labor, 3 1/2 hours of pushing and a C-section I wanted to bond with my baby and rest. I Couldn't do it, it was too darn noisy. Also, you can request lactation consultants, they are excellent, to help you with breast feeding. Some of the LPNs(not the RNs) had some scary advice when it came to helping me nurse my child. One of them said, he's starving, you might as well give up and give him formula! Overall, the delivery side nurses were great. The post-delivery nurses just okay. The post delivery environment was not as peaceful as my other friends experienced at Seqouia(sp?) in Redwood City and Pacific Medical in SF, which is why we discharged two days early. Maya

I last gave birth at Alta Bates in January of 2000 (also gave birth there in 1996) and found the Labor and Delivery nursing staff incredibly great. The post-partum nurses are also wonderful, but have more patients to deal with so you don't see as much of them, but by that time who wants to be hanging out with a nurse all of the time anyway? The post-partum nurses can be very helpful if you need help with getting started on nursing. I was able to leave 12 hours after giving birth both times (my choice) and was helped by the staff to get all the paperwork done so I could get out of there. The anesthesiologist that was on duty when I was there was a little bit bossy, but we were able to keep him in line. Besides, he was kind of cute. All in all I thought Alta Bates was quite good. DLEWITES

The only thing that I would do differently next time if giving birth at Alta Bates is not expect my husband to sleep on the very uncomfortable chair in the private room. Either bring some pillows or send him home. Otherwise, the Alta Bates staff and facilities were fine. HalfDink

I delivered at Alta Bates in January 2001 and was very pleased with the nursing staff and the environment. I had to be induced for very low amniotic fluid so I was in a labor and delivery room for a full day and night before I began actual labor. I had a variety of nurses during that time; however, I feel that the nurses that were assigned to me when my labor became intensive, were absolutely excellent! Two minor problems were the uncomfortable beds, weighing the babies at some unreasonable hour like 4:00am. The most unpleasant, was that after I delivered, it seemed like every nurse in the L unit was in my room admiring the baby when I just wanted to be with him and his daddy for some quiet time. On the other hand, seeing brand new babies has got to be one of the great perks of the none-too-glamorous job of being a L nurse

I delivered my baby boy at Alta Bates in March this year. I thought that the care I recieved was excellent. The nurses, the anaestheologist and the postpartum nurses were all very good. It is best to get a private room as after labour you won't want to be in a room with strangers. Moreover if you have family with you a room all to yourself would be more comfortable. Good Luck! Debamitra

I delivered at Alta Bates on May 20, 2001. My water broke on May 19, and I went in expecting to be induced -- but one of the nurses pointed out that waiting a day could contribute to lung maturity (I was a bit early and had gestational diabetes, so this was a real concern, and I greatly appreciated her pointing this out to me -- the doctor had just told me that the decision was up to me). However, labor didn't start on its own, so I was induced the next day. I really felt like I had a good experience. One of my friends is a labor and delivery nurse there, and she was with me throughout, as a friend rather than an on-duty nurse (which doubtless contributed to the positive quality of the experience) -- but I also had two on-duty nurses, who were wonderful: totally supportive of what I wanted, but also careful to point out options that I might have overlooked. The one who was with me for the second half of labor was particularly wonderful -- a combination of soothing and cheerleading that was really amazing! I finally chose to have an epidural, and had heard bad things about how this affected pushing ability -- but I had no trouble at all, and was informed that this was in part due to the excellence of the anesthesiologist who did it. I also liked all of the nurses I dealt with post-partum, with one exception (who was not a regular nurse there, but a substitute). I had trouble getting started nursing (my baby needed help figuring out how to suck), and while one of the lactation consultants I talked to wasn't terribly helpful, the second was a real gem -- showed us a couple of techniques that really helped a lot. As others are saying, a private room is very much worth it. It was wonderful having my husband be able to stay with me all night, and to have a place to either be quiet, or be with friends, as we chose. Karen

I gave birth to my first child in Alta Bates in May 2001. Overall - it was a great place to give birth in, but some parts were better than others. The L room was great - new, clean, pleasantly decorated and very comfortable, though I wasn't happy with the nurse I had who kept disappearing and leaving me alone (with my husband and mom) for very long stretches of time. I was bound to the bed because the monitor showed my baby was in distress so they hooked her on internal monitor (sounds much worse than it really is) and me on an IV and oxygen mask and I was hysterical with worry and in pain and really needed a comforting nurse by me. At one point, I was so hysterical with fear (the monitor kept losing my baby's heart beat with every contraction), my husband just ran to the corridor and got the first nurse he saw to come in and stay with me for a few minutes and she helped me a lot. Also, the doctor that was on duty kept pushing me to have a c-section (which I managed not to have since my own doctor came at last to deliver my baby and did a wonderful job). After my baby was born, a new nurse came and she was really nice and helped me breastfeed my baby for the first time. my suggestion: get a doula who will protect your interests. With regards to the recovery part, I have only praise. I had a private room, and true it was somewhat run down and the sleeping armchairs (they let us bring another one in from another room so that both my mom and my husband could spend the night with me) were, I heard, uncomfortable, but the nurses were more than I could wish for. you get two nurses - one for you and one for the baby and although the ward was full, every time I wanted anything - pain medication, questions about my baby, whatever, day or night, they were there with a smile and a caring hand, easing my way into motherhood, when I was so tired and sore after the bitrh. So apart from the L nurse and the OB on duty, I felt really good having my baby there, especially since they have one of the best NICU in the state, in case something goes wrong - and a healthy living baby is much more important than a nice nurse at L Anne

When I gave birth to my daughter in November 1999, I was able to get a private room. Much to my surprise, the hospital was undergoing renovations at the time and there were workmen banging around until the wee hours of the morning just outside my door. They were apparently gluing tile or carpet onto the floor. I talked to the nurses, who tried to be helpful (and put a fan outside to help get rid of the fumes), but I thought it was unfair that the hospital charged as much as it did for such a noisy, smelly room. It was much better the second night. I wrote Alta Bates a letter explaining what had happened and said I felt it was fair to pay for the second night but not the first. They agreed. Remember that you are right to expect - and receive - a reasonable room. I also found the recovery nurses a mixed bunch, whereas our nurse during most of my labor was fabulous. Another thing we noticed is that the lights in our private room were extremely bright. My husband ended up going home and getting a small table lamp that we used instead.

I gave birth at Alta Bates in August 1999 and again in July 2001. The first time I had labor followed by a Cesarean (At 8 centimeters, the nurse discovered Oops, she's breech.) The second was an elective Cesarean. (After my water broke, I simply waited around for several hours for my own obstetrician, Dr. Spitzberg, to come in and do the procedure.) Both experiences were fine: good L nurses, anesthesiologists, and doctors. The rule for leaving the recovery room after a Cesarean is 1.5 hours (to make sure you aren't going to bleed too much) or until you can take some weight on your legs, whichever comes later.

I had cord blood collected both times. The first time I had only just met the doctor minutes before the operation (Dr Rory), and I don't think he had collected cord blood before, but he read the instructions I provided and seemed to have no trouble. We did have to pack it up and call the courier ourselves, but we had no problem getting access to a phone. (Though Alta Bates did misplace the box it was supposed to go in, but after searching, they gave us another box, which was fine.) The second time it was done by my obstetrician, and we had discussed the collection in advance. In fact, since my son had some respiratory distress, and my husband spent several hours after the birth with him in NICU, my obstetrician himself packed up the cord blood in the box, put on the labels, and called the courier for me, while I was in recovery (which was very sweet of him.) It pays to educate yourself on how the collection is done and how to pack it up and send it, in case you need to tell the people at the hospital. I think there may be less cord blood to be collected after a Cesarean than a vaginal births, and also it varies from person to person. It's probably unrealistic to expect a specific amount.

I too recommend getting a private room, if possible. Otherwise maybe it's better to go home as soon as you can manage. The Alta Bates staff do come in to check you relatively often, and if there are more people in the room to check it makes even more disturbance while you are trying to recover. Although seeing a lactation consultant in the hospital can be helpful, I found I needed one much more after I got home and I had more milk and was nursing much more. (Meaning it can take a few days for problems like nipple soreness and clogged ducts to develop.) I advise collecting names of lactation consultations in advance of delivery so you have someone to call when you get home, and not just when you're in the hospital. Karen

My experience at Alta Bates wasn't very good. The nurses were all very supportive but the doctor, Heather Irwin, wasn't. (I think she has since retired). Dr. Irwin paid no attention at all to my preferences. I had a birthing plan written but she apparently didn't read it, and in retrospect I realize that it wasn't at all explicit enough that I wanted a quiet room, low voices, etc. When Dr. Irwin came in the place was just noise noise noise. She and her assistants were absolutely screaming at me to push harder and I found it unnerving, distasteful, and not helpful at all. Thanks god for my husband who was a beacon of quiet sanity. I hope the other doctors are better!

I gave birth at Alta Bates a few weeks ago. After a long & difficult labor (it took two tries to get the epidural going), I ended up with an emergency C-section. Certainly it was not the labor I had envisioned, but I now have a healthy & beautiful baby. I am so grateful for the care my baby & I received from the entire staff. Dr. Heather Irwin was the doctor on call and although she is not my regular doctor and I had never met her before, she was amazing. She was incredibly focused and caring. She was there (either in the room or at the monitor) the entire time and saw us through the whole process. Our labor nurse was an angel ... she was so supportive and encouraging. (Incidentally, I did not have the same connection with the nurse on duty when we were first admitted; the charge nurse discreetly ensured that she was not assigned to us again.) I recognize that everyone's experience is different, but I thought I'd share mine.

Stories from 1999-2000

Nov 1999

I am Kaiser patient also. My son was born in January of this year (1999). Because I am an Oakland Kaiser member I delivered at Alta Bates. (All the Oakland and Richmond maternity patients go there). I had a wonderful experiece (although it was not a wonderful labor.) I went into labor on a Monday night, and delivered by c-section on Wednesday morning, so I had the opportunity to see many of the residents and nurses. Based on my experience the complications of the merger between Alta Bates and Kaiser have been worked out. There were 19 babies born on the day shift alone while I was there, so it was a very busy ward. BUT I didnt' notice it at all. There was a nurse in my room with me the entire time, and all 4 of the nurses who cared for me were great. (I had my mother and my husband in the room with me for support, but found the nurses to be very helpful.) There were plenty of Kaiser residents on hand so whenever anything came up I had a dr in the room right away. I saw about 6 different residents, but was primarily cared for by one, who eventually ended up performing my c-section (with one of the Ob's from Oakland) and also doing all of my exams while I was in the hospital. I had never met him before, but I felt very comfortable with him, and by the time he checked me out (the following Sunday) we were joking around. He even knew my name and my baby's name and would say Hi to us when he ran into us walking the halls.

The after care experiece was good too. I did have to wait about 12 hours to get a single room (which I did pay extra for, Kaiser will only cover a double room.) because of the large number of babies born that week. But the nurses and the nurses assistants were generally very good. The hospital food wasn't that bad. And the visitation rules were not strictly enforced which was good for me. I never had any pressure put on me to check out early either. (The dr did tell me that since he, or another resident, was there 24 hrs a day I could check out anytime I was ready... even if it was the middle of the night.)

Overall, I would have to say that I was pleased with my experience. In Lamaze class the instructor joked that after a couple of hours in labor we wouldn't care who was in the room. I doubted it when she said it, but once everything started it was really true. Hope this helps.

Feb 2000

I would suggest that you go to Alta Bates and take a tour of the facilities. Our experience there (last September) was fantastic! We took a childbirth education course there (4 weeks) which really helped us understand what to expect during the birthing process. Once we were admitted, the labor and delivery nurses were superb - caring, intelligent, sensitive and extremely good medical practitioners. The regular nursing staff in the recovery post-partum rooms were good, very attentive and supportive of breastfeeding, although much busier than the L nurses. (After all that one-to-one attention in delivery, it's a little hard to be one of many patients again...) Take the time to find the right practitioner first, and then discuss your options for hospitals. Best of Luck!!