Midwife for a VBAC

Parent Q&A

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  • Midwife for VBAC at Alta Bates

    (5 replies)

    I am contemplating a second pregnancy in the near future and am starting to consider providers.  I am hoping for a VBAC but would like a midwife with a relationship with an OB practice in case I end up needing a second c-section (I'd like to know ahead of time who the surgeon would be). I live in Berkeley and am interested in practices in Berkeley or Oakland - I'd like to deliver at Alta Bates again. Thanks for any recommendations!

    Golden Oak Midwives takes on VBAC patients and delivers at Alta Bates. They're great and could tell me in advance which practice of doctors would do a second c-section if necessary, though I think the specific doctor would be based on who was on call at the time. https://www.gomidwives.com/

    Hi there,

    I had a successful VBAC at Alta Bates with Grace Bender as my doula. She has since become a midwife and is very well connected with the OBs at Alta Bates. We loved having Grace with us for our second birth, and Alta Bates was very supportive of my VBAC plans. Grace's website is https://gracefulbelly.com/

    Have you considered Pacifica Family Maternity Center?

    They're fantastic and the birth center is a block from Alta Bates! Their team is quite comprehensive and includes folks with experience supporting folks in birthing at home, in the hospital and at the birth center. 

    My daughter was born nearly 3 years ago at Alta Bates, and at that time I believe there were only 3 local midwives with delivery privileges there: Ellie Griffinger and Gwen Haynes (who now share a practice: gomidwives.com) and Lindy Johnson. Not sure that’s still the case. 

    Yes! Lindy Johnson - she is wonderful and has a practice in Berkeley. I delivered my baby years ago at Alta Bates.  It was a VBAC situation too.

  • Midwife/Doula recommendations for VBAC

    (9 replies)

    Looking for recommendations for an experienced midwife/doula to help support VBAC. My first pregnancy was healthy and full term but had second stage arrest during labor, the baby did not descend despite 4 hours of pushing which ended up in a C section. The baby  was 7lbs and I am not a petite person, we both did very well. I wondered if her failure to descend could be attributed to pelvic misalignment, she was initially breech but then was manually turned at 36 weeks . Now that I am expecting  my second child, I wanted to be proactive about keeping my pelvis well aligned to encourage optimal baby positioning and try for a VBAC. Would love recommendations on midwives/doulas who can help support that, any positive experiences and other resources which would help me achieve my goal. Thanks

    I had a wonderful experience with Ellie and Gwen at Golden Oak Midwives! I definitely recommend them. They are located in Oakland and I know they help mothers with VBACs. https://www.gomidwives.com/

    I highly recommend you look into Spinning Babies (website) - which works on baby positioning and has a list of practitioners with Spinning Babies training. I used Ilka Fanni as my doula for my VBAC- she was great and I'd highly recommend her as she is highly experienced with baby positioning and VBACs. https://www.ilkafanni.com/ She also teaches a Spinning Babies class which is also helpful. I did also decide to use a chiropractor to help with alignment- not sure if it mattered or not. 

    My midwife Michelle Borok was amazing. I had my second baby in May and she was also a VBAC. My first was breech and was a csection. Working with Michelle was a healing and incredible experience. 


    Hi! I had a successful VBAC in 2017 after an unplanned C-Section in 2013. I decided to go with a home birth, because I felt the home setting and home approach would be more supportive and conducive of a successful VBAC. My first birth was at Kaiser Walnut Creek and the level of medical interventions was pretty crazy. Even though I had switched to Blue Shield and therefore Sutter, the perspective in the hospital is framed by risk intolerance and outcome avoidance, rather than affirming and embracing a path towards the desired outcome. I went with Lael Stimmings as my midwife. She had a practice called Trinity Midwifery, although now I think she just practices under her own name. I cannot recommend her highly enough. She was instrumental in my success, and supported me, believed in me, every step of the way. Good luck! You can do it!

    I am not sure if my mid-wives support VBAC, but if they do, I highly reccomend them.I assume they would, as they are very supportive of what the parents want and don't have a cookie cutter agenda for each patient. Check out Gwen and Ellie at Gold Oak Midwives at gomidwives.com


    I recommend my doula Renata Provost. I had a wonderful experience with her and she was communicative throughout my pregnancy of how things such as pelvic alignment and exercises to get my daughter to turn when I thought she was breech. She herself had a successful VBAC and I think her experience would help support yours. https://www.theinnatedoula.com/ Good luck and sending you strength!

    I had a successful VBAC after an unplanned cesarean for surprise breech. I had a fantastic doula, Blythe Lee, of 3 Daughters Doula. She was wonderful, helped me throughout the labor and delivery (at Alta Bates), and I cannot recommend her enough. 

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences and resources. This is very helpful.

    I had a very positive experience with my VBAC. My first birth was a 'cascade of interventions' due to failure to progress in the labor (I had terrible back labor for about 72 hours), finally ending in unplanned C section. His head was stuck and tilted (probably due to the pitocin forcing him to descend faster than he wanted). My second birth was the exact opposite. I actually had a precipitous labor (under 3 hours), strong labor surges, and no time for pain medication. It was the most natural (still dramatic of course) experience. Here are the things I did differently:

    • Got a doula experienced in VBAC - Heidi Kate from Brilliant Births (https://brilliantbirths.com/)
    • Sat on an exercise ball at my office job starting in my second trimester
    • Listened to hypnobirthing CDs (Mongan Method) - I did not take a class because I didn't have time, but the CD/book were great resources to get into the mindset
    • Stopped doing Kegels and did more squats instead - I decided that instead of needing taut/in-shape muscles, I wanted to have flexibility and openness.
    • Began eating dates in my 36th week (I believe you can start in the 32nd or 34th week), here's the research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989

    Good luck! I had thought I was 'proactive enough' in my first pregnancy, but for my second pregnancy, everything I listed for you became my daily routine in the 3rd trimester.

  • 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  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/opinion/sunday/why-is-american-home-bi...

    . "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.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2008 

RE: Midwife for second baby


I just had a successful second pregnancy with Jeri Zukoski, CNM. She takes most insurance, all but Kaiser I believe.

Her prenatal appointments are fun, easy going, and not rushed, and usually on time, only if previous client was late have I been delayed. My toddler-aged son was always welcome at appointments if I needed to bring him (she also took care of me for my first pregnancy).

I was going for a VBAC delivery this time, and she was fully supportive of my wishes throughout the pregnancy, labor, and the ultimate route of delivery, a 2nd c-section. She helped me and my husband feel confident in our decisions, didn't pressure us in any way, just supported us, making sure we knew the pros and cons of our decisions along the way. We felt she always kept my health and the health of my child at the forefront. Knowing how dedicated I was to a natural birth, I loved that she did not cast judgment or disappointment in me for a failed VBAC. Instead she helped us celebrate all of our hard work and the arrival of our second beautiful son just 7 weeks ago.

My husband and I both whole-heartedly recommend her. Good luck to you. Susie

Oct 2006

Re: OB/GYN for VBAC in East Bay area
I recommend Hsiu-li Cheng (pronounced Sho-lee). She's a nurse practitioner midwife, trained at Stanford and in England, and she has an amazing wealth of experience and knowledge. She is very warm and real, and very committed to VBAC. I was determined to have a VBAC and she was very encouraging. At the end of my pregnancy I consulted with some other folks just as a back-up in case Hsiu-li was tied up in an emergency that was happening, and none of them were at all encouraging about the VBAC. During the labor she was great, and she involved my husband, and she knew lots of ways to get my baby out quicker. And, my child was born posterior, with her head bent to the side - no easy thing - and it was almost painless. (Specifically, she doesn't just wait for the baby to come out, she sticks her hand in and moves the baby around. It's uncomfortable, but it was very helpful and necessary. We would have been waiting around for a long time without her manual interventions.) I know that the painless part is unusual, especially for a posterior delivery, but anyone who has delivered with Hsiu-li becomes a fan. She works out of Summit, so you'd deliver there. anon

June 2006

Re: Female ObGyn for a VBAC and OBYGN supportive of VBAC in SF?
Congratulations on pursuing a VBAC. I recently had a VBAC with a midwifery practice at St. Luke's -- Homestyle Midwifery. They are a separate practice backed up by OBs at the Women's Health Center there. The hospital overall has a very low cesarean rate (around 13%), which is a good sign. Homestyle Midwifery is really a unique and amazing practice. They provide wonderful emotional and physical support (long prenatal visits, a 36 week team meeting with all the midwives, your partner and doula, prenatal group meetings, a postpartum home visit, labor tub, birthing stool, and more). They will also not use unnecessary interventions which are routine in so many practices. This approach was so refreshing after my previous experiences, and I really think their philosophy will give you a wonderful chance of VBAC. Best of luck with your VBAC journey. It really is worth it. Homestyle Midwifery: (415) 643-3378, homestylemw[at]yahoo.com, www.homestylemidwifery.com Julie M

May 2003

Re: ObGyn for a VBAC
I used and felt very happy with Hsiu-Li Cheng for my VBAC at Summit in 2000. She is a Certified Nurse Midwife and not a doctor, but I'd have to say that my medical care was very similar to what I experienced with my previous OB/GYN. What was better was that she listened to my concerns about having another C-section and helped me do everything possible to have a vaginal birth. Feel free to e-mail me if you have more questions. Also check out the numerous posts about Hsiu-Li in the Parent's network archives. Susan

Dec 2002

Nancy Barnett-Moore delivered two of my three children and I recommend her highly. After having a medically questionable c/s with my first child (in Seattle) I was determined to find a midwife to help me attempt a VBAC. I spoke with several midwives and decided to go with Nancy. She's a wonderful caregiver- warm and nurturing, knowledgable and medically astute. I always felt like I was well cared for. In many ways I feel like she combines the sensitivity and knowledge of a midwife with the medical security sometimes given by an OB. With her help I had a wonderfully uneventful vaginal birth in 1999. When I became pregnant again there was no question that we wanted Nancy to be our midwife again.

Nancy is great during prenatal appointments, but she truly shines during labor and birth. I remember walking into the hospital in active labor and being greeted by Nancy and getting the sense that I was seeing her at her professional best. In my case I wanted to avoid the hospital system as much as possible and it felt like she created an insulating bubble around us that was comforting and secure. I have no doubt that if my births had been more complicated she would have been a strong advocate for me while insuring that I received excellent care. I feel fortunate to have had Nancy as my caregiver. Gayle