Which Childbirth Facility?

Parent Q&A

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  • I delivered my first at Alta Bates. The L&D nurses were overall fantastic, but the facilities were not (nor were the nurses’ jobs as we heard over and over). My OB was at Sutter and I want to get out of the Sutter system for a variety of reasons - always late, practicing cookie cutter medicine, wrong diagnosis from the MFM team causing serious trauma in the third trimester, etc. 

    We are considering John Muir but have heard they are overall more interventive than Alta Bates. I’m over 40 and it’s an IVF pregnancy and MDs tend to like to intervene in such “geriatric” pregnancies despite that my first was no issues (other than the misdiagnosis). 

    UCSF seems to get the highest marks from folks who would probably tend to lean towards pure midwife care (like me) but can’t bc of age+IVF - great OBs, a Midwife practice, good facilities, Centering program, etc.

    My question to the community who have gone to UCSF - in your experience, is it worth the commute from Richmond not for L&D but for the weekly (maybe daily) appointments at the end? 

    I live in Oakland and had an incredibly high risk pregnancy. I ended up transferring from Alta Bates to UCSF and it was the best decision, would make it again in a heartbeat.  The facilities are wonderful, the nurses and physicians seem to have a lot of respect for one another, I felt I was treated with dignity, care and compassion. I transferred in my third trimester, but I understand UCSF will do as many appointments as possible virtually, which helps with the visit trekking. Maybe it is changing, but a year ago UCSF seemed to be very selective about which patients they would take on, and required a referral. 

    Was pregnant last year (also an IVF pregnancy and had our son in March 2022) and moved from SF to the East Bay in January 2022.  We had started at UCSF, loved our greater OB team and as one of the best rated maternal fetal programs we decided that it wasn't worth it to change practitioners or where I planned to give birth.  Yes, took some planning to get to early appointments on time and wasn't always my favorite to drive to SF for what would end up being a quick check-in, but was 100% worth it to me.  And while my son's birth didn't quite go as I had hoped, I felt so supported by my team who made sure that whatever could be accomplished in my birth plan and keep me and baby safe they made every possibility to do and always asked my permission before doing anything (which I know should be standard practice, but from the stories I've heard from so many  always the case at other practices/hospitals).  If we are lucky enough to have more children and are still in the Bay Area I will still have my pre-natal and L&D care be through UCSF.

    I will say though, if having a consistent care team throughout pregnancy is important to you, UCSF is likely not the place to be.  As they are a large academic hospital, I very rarely saw the same doctor/midwife/NP/etc. for any appts.  I never had a bad experience so for me it was fine, but I know the consistency in who is at each check-up, ultrasound, etc. is important to some people.

    I didn't love UCSF.  My pregnancy overlapped with the start of the pandemic, which probably contributed to a general sense of disorganization and seeing a different provider almost every time (I tried to see a midwife but this wasn't always possible).  When they told me I would need to be induced at 39 weeks due to the baby measuring small, it was basically impossible to get a straight answer on how this would work -- some people at USCF told me I could go in to get the Foley and go home until labor started, but I ultimately learned that due to the reason for my induction, I would be hospitalized and monitored from the start of the Foley insertion.  For delivery itself, I specifically requested a midwife but my mom (a former Labor & Delivery nurse) was chagrined when just five hours after the Foley insertion, when I was already on Pitocin and ~5 cm dilated, the midwife pressured me to break my waters to speed up labor (which in my mom's opinion was already going pretty fast for a first-time mom).  I ultimately needed a C-section due to potential fetal distress and while the surgery went fine (baby and I both did well), I did see the downsides of a teaching hospital, as I had a resident straight out med school (July birth, which is when the new resident classes start) doing much of my operation and I could hear the attending chastise the resident for things she was doing during the surgery (e.g., "Don't press on that muscle -- you aren't listening to me!!") which was a bit unnerving!  (This same resident told me that I was fully dilated after examining me a few hours earlier, which was nowhere close to true...)

    That said, I also had a *terrible* experience at the Alta Bates ER where they misdiagnosed me when I had appendicitis and then I didn't get surgery until more than 72 hours after my initial ER visit, which led to all sorts of complications due to a ruptured appendix and an unpleasant hospital stay in a small room with a challenging roommate.  So I'm really negative about Alta Bates too.  If I ever had another baby, I just don't know where I'd want to go in the Bay Area.  I had another hospital stay in the Chicago area that was amazingly better than either of my California experiences and also less expensive...

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  • Birth at Alta Bates Summit or CPMC?

    (9 replies)

    I gave birth to my first at CPMC in SF as we were living in the city at the time. We are now in Berkeley and pregnant with our second. I love my OB in the city that delivered my first and I am very tempted to stay with her and just make the trek for visits and deliver at CPMC again. But just wanted to hear what others thought about delivering at Alta Bates Summit? I know my husband would appreciate the switch since it’s basically walking distance from our place. 
     

    Is Labor & Delivery section and rooms nice at Alta Bates? Has anyone experienced both hospital L&D? One question- does Alta Bates change your rooms after delivery? That is one thing I did not enjoy about CPMC- a nice big room for L&D and then switch to small tight Recovery room. 

    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)

    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.

    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. 

    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.

    Pros:

    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 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 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 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.

    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. 

    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.

  • Hi parents,

    This is my first question on the group. Do you have any recommendations for good non Kaiser hospitals and Obstetricians near Oakland/Berkeley area? I'm pregnant with my second and while I went all the way to UCSF for my first I would like to be closer home for the second one. 

    Some names that come up are Alta Bates in Berkeley and Highland Hospital. Did any of you all had your babies there? Did you love it or hate it? 

    Thanks so so much in advance! 

    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.

    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.

    Thanks so much for your replies! I have decided to deliver at Alta Bates Berkeley as well and will start by seeing Dr. Taub! As long as the environment feels safe and supportive everything else can be worked around! 

  • Hello, I am looking for a midwife (CNM) or OB that can give prenatal care and do the delivery. Basically, I want to know the person who delivers my baby in advance, but I want to do that through my insurance, Aetna (specifically Stanford Health Care Alliance, but let's say Aetna to keep it simple). I don't really know how the healt care system works here, but I understand there are at least some private practice OBs that do that at Alta Bates (I found Dr Liziano through BPN but she is not covered by my insurance). Any recommendations?

    I don't know anyone local OBs that can guarantee that in this area. Have you looked into getting a doula? That way you can guarantee that support person is in the room, no matter who your OB is. 

    I have SHCA and delivered my first baby with Dr. Yvette Gentry from East Bay Women's Health at Alta Bates and will be delivering my second with her as well very soon.  She has a private practice and as I understand it, delivers most of the babies, although does work with a network of doctors if she is unavailable so its definitely not guaranteed.  There was another OB in her practice who is leaving, so I know they might have limited capacity right now.  Feel free to message me if you'd like to discuss more.

    Hi!  I also have Aetna through SHCA and am using the team at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation on 2500 Milvia in Berkeley (SHCA makes it seem like they will only pay for you to deliver at SHC/LPCH or ValleyCare but it's misleading - they do cover others places, you just have to call the Aetna member number to confirm).  They take the Aetna insurance (10% co-insurance) and cover delivery at Alta Bates Summit Berkeley on Ashby. 

    There are many female docs and a couple CNMs in the practice, with someone always on call for deliveries.  You never reeeealy know who will deliver you unless you schedule a c-section with your primary OB but there are opportunities to meet many people in the practice cuz there are so many appts towards the end.  Or you can develop a relationship with 1-2 docs over the course of your pregnancy so those folks know you really well vs a dozen who know you a bit.  Whatever works for you is best!!

    Hope this helps - Happy to chat further privately!

    ~ Sarah

    Lindy Johnson is a midwife in Berkeley and she is amazing, and her office is located right across from Alta Bates. At the time I had Blue Shield and they paid for her services. But even if your insurance won't pay, her fee is incredibly affordable considering what you get. I was in a baby prep group where everyone else had ob/gyn's and I have to say hearing about their experiences made me even more confident in my choice of a midwife. She only does hospital births, she has specialists as her back up (can't remember the name of the practice but it is where I had my amnio and they specialize in high risk pregnancies). I liked that while she of course would prefer an all natural birth, she will not hesitate to bring in surgeons if a c-section does become necessary. I liked knowing that I had someone on my side who would give me their honest opinion if medical intervention is necessary, rather than a doctor who will push c-sections and epidurals on you at your most vulnerable moments, which has happened to several of my friends. 

    Check out Golden Oak Midwives! They are two midwives who only do deliveries at Alta Bates. I had a great experience - I had all my prenatal care with them and knew that one of them would be there to deliver my baby instead of a stranger. It was really wonderful. They do charge a fee but my insurance covered some of it and of course, my insurance covered all of my hospital related bills for the delivery. 

    Congrats on your pregnancy! I hope you can find what you are looking for though I think it is pretty uncommon in most the HMO's.  I'm guessing this your first - having been through this with 2 babies I would just like to pipe up and say, at least for me, all of that concern about who would deliver my babies flew right out the window after hours of labor. You'll likely be glad to have ANYONE there to help you honestly. You'll never see the amazing nurses again but they are the real angels in the process and no matter what you'll be glad to have a midwife or doctor there. You are doing all the work, whoever is there in the end (and really the doctor is not there until late!) is just there to assist. Good luck to you!!

  • Best Rooms - Labor, Delivery, Recovery

    (2 replies)

    Any recommendations from parents that have toured the LDR/P rooms at the hospitals in Berkeley and Oakland?  Which are the most comfortable - Alta Bates, Kaiser, UCSF Oakland Childrens?  Thanks in advance!

    I don't think it really matters, if you can pay the private-room surcharge I would do that. And whichever location you can get to without getting stuck in traffic should probably be the most important factor.

    I can speak to Kaiser Oakland, as I just had a baby there in February. It was very comfortable! The labor room was spacious and clean, with good space for my partner. The post-partum room was private (a private room is a MUST! I can't believe some are still shared!) and also clean, modern, and adequately sized, and my partner had a comfortable (enough) sofa that converted to a bed. He is 6'1" and just barely fit on it, however. There was good space for visitors and the nurses. The food was average and edible. I only have CPMC in the city to compare Kaiser to, which was old and antiquated (which is why they're building the new hospital now). Thumbs up to the Kaiser Oakland facilities.

  • Midwife or Birthing Center Recommendations

    (8 replies)

    i am 21 weeks pregnant with my first child.  i have kaiser coverage but am increasingly unhappy with the kind of care i am getting.  for instance, appointments with my doctor never last more than 15 minutes and there is little chance i will have met the doctors or nurses working during my delivery.  i am hungry for classes or training in how to prepare for childbirth but kaiser offers only one hour long class on the subject.  i would like to have a natural childbirth but the assembly line nature of previous appointments makes me skeptical that can take place at a kaiser hospital.  i am looking for a more holistic experience.  i wonder, though, if i am too far along (or too late) to find a midwife who can work with me.  can anyone recommend a midwife or birthing center they loved and felt like they did a good job preparing the mother for labor?  or, can anyone recommend a doula that gives classes or training leading up to delivery?  right now i feel like i'm coming to this subject late in the game and there is a lot of information out there on the internet.  i'm hoping for a little advice or guidance to narrow my search for the perfect person to help this new mama.

    It is absolutely not too late to switch your care! I recommend Pacifica Family Maternity Center, a birthing center in Berkeley: http://www.pacificamaternity.com/ You can also look at this extensive list of Bay Area midwives: http://www.bayareamidwives.com/ Best of luck to you!

    Not to sound critical, but just to let you know I found the Kaiser birthing experience to be quite responsive to what I was asking for.  Also I took an all day child birth class there and I know they offered one that met multiple times.  We also attended classes for the different stages of pregnancy.  I felt adequately educated for a first time delivery.  (Honestly I think there is only so much you can prepare.)   I had a doula who I loved, Cindy Curry at Stork and Sprout.  If everything is going well then your regular dr appointments shouldn't need to be any longer.  At this point in your pregnancy they are looking for red flags and if there aren't any then you are good to go.  I hear ya on the thing about not knowing what doctors will be there for the delivery.  That was a bit of a bummer.  There was a hospital tour and "meet the birthing team" walkthrough and Q&A that they offer, which I did and that was helpful.  So when the day came I knew where to go and the processes and also had met some of the staff or at least seen them.  If you do end up staying the Kaiser route, definitely look further into the class options because they are enormously helpful and there are a lot of them.  Also highly recommend the breastfeeding class!  Take that one before you deliver.  

    I second the recommendation for Pacifica. I just gave birth there in September and was very pleased with the care. 

    You're not too late at all! I suggest contacting Treesa McLean of Birth With Treesa, and one of the midwives who runs Bay Area Midwifery Community Birthing Center in Oakland. In this setting, you will know that she will be the midwife at your birth, and won't have to question which of the many possible unknown providers it will be. www.birthwithtreesa.com
    There are also birth center/home birth focused classes that take place at Bay Area Midwifery that may be of interest to you as well.

    While not answering the question about midwife/birthing center, I can speak to the experience at Kaiser. Hopefully this will help ease your concerns, or be helpful to someone else who is navigating Kaiser.

    First, yes. The visits are quick. Quick at the beginning, especially if all is well. If you have questions, ask them! I've also found that Kaiser docs are generally great at responding to emails. Also, when there was anything remotely abnormal, visits got longer and I was amazed with how quickly I was able to get additional tests (all was actually totally fine). No, you likely won't meet the doctors and nurses who will be there for delivery. 

    Here's a (2016) link to prenatal and postpartum classes. The two/three day childbirth session covers laboring and delivery positions and pain management options, including med-free. I see now that they also offer a "Coping with Labor the Natural Way" class. (FWIW, I had a non-medicated, simple birth at Kaiser Oakland, as did a friend of mine.)

    https://thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/care-near-you/northern-california/sa...

    Re: midwives... Kaiser Oakland and Walnut Creek both have midwives on staff in L&D. The midwife who was with me was top notch and fully in charge (over the resident MD). I felt like I was in very capable hands. And while I hadn't met her prior to birth, she did come to visit the next day, which was really great.

    I trust that you'll find the right option for you!

    I just gave birth to my daughter a couple months ago and received care from Bay Area Midwifery. They do both birth center and home births. My midwife was Pearl. I received such an amazing level of support. It is so different from my Kaiser experiences! Besides long and holistic prenatal appointments, she actually did at least 7 postpartum visits in the first 10 days after the birth. There would have been 10, but the breast feeding and weight gain of the baby was going so well, she didn't need to. She even helped me immensely with breast feeding. I didn't even leave home for an appointment until my 6 week post-partum appointment! 

    I attended pregnancy support groups (free with care) where there was sharing and education as well as birth prep groups with Tabitha (an extra fee). I had the natural home birth that I wanted. Not only that, my husband learned pain management techniques that were critical to me during labor and I had a quick, relatively easy birth. I continue to attend free post partum groups there twice a month. I highly recommend it. What a difference it makes to be seen as a whole person not just a patient and to have everything geared towards preparing you for a natural birth experience! 

    Pacifica Birth Center is amazing. I gave birth there 3 months ago. I also had Kaiser- so its $5000 out of pocket. Worth every penny- we had an amazing birth there.  You are definitely not too late to switch. 

    Definitely not too late to switch, I switched from a midwife practice in a hospital (though no Kaiser) when I was farther along than you.  I felt so strongly that the environment was too medicalized and I would feel uncomfortable giving birth there, and knew I wanted to give birth at home.  I found an incredible midwife, Leopi Sanderson Edmunds, who I can recommend very highly.  Her visits were holistic, and took us through what my partner and I would be experiencing at every stage of the pregnancy, as well as during birth.  She had good recommendations for a healthy, natural pregnancy in terms of diet, supplements, etc.  She and her partner helped me give natural birth to a very large baby without tearing.  She was also able to make the call, soon after the birth, that my baby needed to be seen at the hospital (he's a beautiful, healthy 3yo now don't worry :-).  It was so important that she was professional in recommending the hospital when necessary.  So you have my recommendation for Leopi, but I suggest meeting several midwives and seeing who you connect with, we are lucky there are so many great options in the Bay.  Also the book "Ida May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth" really helped prepare me for what I would experience in birth (caveat - it has a strong 70's hippie vibe which can be too much, but the benefit is that it has lots of birth stories and science).