CPMC Labor & 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.
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.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Labor and Delivery- Alta Bates Berkeley v. CPMC
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
SF Midwives and Giving Birth @ CPMC?
I'm about three months along with #2 and this is my first pregnancy in the Bay Area. I'm currently seeing an OB/GYN at Pacific Gynecology and Obstetrics Medical Group in San Francisco. Though my first delivery was intended to be a natural one, it ended up with an emergency C-section. An experience I'd like to not repeat. In searching through the archives, I found a lot of recommendations for East Bay midwives, but almost none for ones based in San Francisco. I work in the city, so it's much easier for me to see a provider there. Can anyone provide a recommendation for a midwife? Preferably one associated with Brown & Toland and supports VBACs? I also see that the reviews of giving birth at CPMC are quite outdated (2005). Can anyone give a more updated point-of-view on giving birth at CPMC? How supportive is the staff of a woman's wishes for a low/no-intervention, natural birth? Especially a VBAC? Thank you. Learned my lesson the first time
It's my understanding that CPMC will not do VBACs. I don't know if that's an official policy written down somewhere, but I have heard multiple times that the hospital will not allow VBACs at all. Unfortunately, I think you're also out of luck looking for midwives there. I heard their midwives recently left CPMC after a lot of frustration with the medical model over there. You're better off at UCSF, although I heard that they are dropping out of Brown and Toland. But if you want a natural birth that's less likely to end in c-section, that's the place to be, especially if you're trying to have a vbac. At UCSF, the faculty practice is amazing -- both MDs and midwives, so if things don't go as planned, you use their MDs. The midwives there are wonderful. We loved Suzanne Seger and Judith Bishop. It's a teaching hospital, so there are residents, but unlike many Ob/Gyn residents these days, their residents see a lot of natural deliveries and seem more comfortable than most young docs with the whole concept. Loved my UCSF midwives
Let me tell you, if you want a natural birth, CPMC is last place you want to be!! As far as I know, there are no midwives there, even doulas are very discouraged there. They have a 98% epidural rate, and one of the highest c section rates in the country! This is not a place for natural birth, though i will say I know some women have done it. UCSF is much better for natural birth, Kaiser also, though the insurance thing is a problem. Most doctors (outside of CPMC) now know that a v-bac is safer than a repeat cesarean. You may want to look into a birthing center, like Sage Femme, in SF. Again, not sure of the v-bac laws for them, but this is a midwifery run birth center, so they're obviously much more open to the idea of a natural birth. Last thing, I'd highly recommend you do your research on V-bacs, douls support, etc. Knowing is half the battle, and in the case of how your baby is born, you are your biggest advocate, because when you know what you want, you're much less likely to get pushed around. Please educate yourself, look for what you need, and stay far away from CPMC. been there, never agtain
For a variety of reasons, I need to plan on delivering my first child at a hospital in San Francisco. As such, I'm trying to decide between CPMC and UCSF. I'd like to labor and deliver with minimum intervention and, hopefully, no drugs -- and therefore would like to be at a hospital where the nurses are supportive without intervening medically unless absolutely necessary. I'm leaning towards CPMC simply because UCSF is a teaching hospital (I think) but any and all advice and experiences would be much appreciated!!! A. Deg
i delivered my son at CPMC in 11/03. we had a terrific experience there, the nurses were all very good and very helpful. i felt they did a good job of listening to what we wanted, while making recommendations on what to do next. i wanted to deliver as naturally as possible, but my labor had to be induced and then i ended up with an epidural anyway. i did hear other mothers delivering w/o drugs, though, so i know they respect that. the labor and delivery rooms were very good, most include bathrooms so you can shower or get in the tub during labor. they support your partner rooming in with you and the baby for your stay.
UCSF is also a fine hospital and i have heard they are very good at respecting your birth plan. two of my friends delievered there and there are two UCSF pediatricians in my family.
i don't know if this concerns you at all, but one difference i have heard of between UCSF and CPMC is that CPMC will ''resuscitate'' earlier. that is, if you go into labor and deliver very early, say around 22-23 weeks (? not sure of the exact number) CPMC will, if requested, put the baby on breathing machines etc. in an effort to help the baby survive. i think UCSF doesn't do this earlier than 24 weeks. if this is a concern for you i suggest you talk with your OB/GYN for more info. Chi-An
I have delivered at both. I sought medication during each birth. I had to be induced at both after many hours of labor. I found UCSF a little more ready and willing to ride things out (slow to induce, long long pushing) and a little more tentative on asking about desire for drugs. But only slightly. I went to CPMC for the second baby because I wanted a more ''private practice'' clinic experience (easier to schedule appointments, better staffed office, less hectic crowded office atmosphere). For me the lead up to birth was better for CPMC but the birthing experience was fairly similar with slight differences mentioned above. Anon
Hi, I had all 3 of my kids (5, 3, & 8 weeks) at CPMC, and I can't say enough good things about it. I had the first one there because we lived in SF, but even after moving to Berkeley 5 years ago, I chose to continue going in for my OB GYN care, mainly because my midwife delivers at CPMC, but also just because I love the hospital. It's a fairly small facility, in comparison to Alta Bates (I don't know the size of UCSF, but it seems bigger too...). The nurses are attentive, caring, and knowledgeable, but also just left me alone most of the time; I had uncomplicated, unmedicated deliveries, and easy recoveries. The facilities are newly renovated, relatively spacious (though there are a variety of sizes), and private. Newborn Connections is great--they offer products and services for moms to be, new moms, and babies, including breastfeeding consultations, both in the hospital and by appointment after discharge. Room Service is a good thing too--they don't automatically bring you nasty hospital food 3 times a day. You order off a menu, call in the order, and they bring it to you, free; and better quality than most hospital food. I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have--email me if you like. Heidi
I delivered at CPMC and everything was going great -- there was no pressure to have an epidural or anything. But the trouble began AFTER the delivery. My baby went missing from the nursery and no one could tell me where he was. They've since tightened nurses' procedures checking baby's IDs but it exposed a side of the hospital, the risk management department, that I hope no one ever has to deal with. Good luck! Nightmare-Plagued Mom
I am a Doula and have worked at both CPMC and UCSF and would reccomend UCSF with the midwife option for a birthwith as few interventions as possible. It is a teaching hospital so it has its limits but my experience there has been more supportive of natural birth, you may want a Doula as well. anon
UCSF is definately a teaching hospital for OB so residents would surely be involved there. CPMC is also a teaching hospital but I'm not sure if they have OB trainees or not.
I'm a doc myself and I had the choice of the 2 and opted for CPMC. Why? Because the front desk staff for the UCSF OB/GYN clinic were absolutely impossible to work with. They were rigid, unpleasant and unhelpful. They were also hard to reach. I didn't ever ask for anything out of line that would merrit this treatment. Once I did ask them to run an appt date past the doc ( would she think it was too late) and they acted like I was a big pain in the a** and didn't do it (I think). So I opted for a CPMC doc who's front desk staff were wonderful, warm and very helpful. Believe me, I was VERY happy about my decision. Her name is Rebecca Yee M.D. She's tops.
I can't compare the 2 hospitals along the lines you asked, but these are issues that you might want to think about. JM
Definitely -- if you want a low/no intervention birth -- UCSF is prefereable to CPMC. I know many people who gave birth at CPMC, and no one had an intervention-free birth -- and several of them were really invested in trying. I understand that is their MO. On the other hand, UCSF is a teaching hospital which means they are up on the latest and greatest, but to them it also means they have more than few fantastic midwives on full- time staff with the major practice there -- which is all the faculty of the med school. I was cared for there for my first child, and loved it and my friend just VBAC'd there with twins and felt so supported and cared for and respected. Make sure you get into the care of a midwife at UCSF -- and at almost any hospital you'll need to be prepared to advocate for yourself if you need to. UCSF booster
Congratulations on your pregnancy. I would highly recommend working with one of the midwives at UCSF (Judith Bishop is the only name I remember). I had planned a homebirth but needed to transfer late in the labor to the hospital. We chose to drive all the way to UCSF from Oakland because of their great reputation with homebirth transfers. I had an incredibly supportive group of Drs., Nurses, and Midwives who helped me deliver my son without drugs, scalpels, or judgement. In my experience with hospitals (I am a paramedic who works for the San Francisco Fire Department) the so-called ''learning'' hospitals (UCSF and SF General) are the places I recommend to families and patients who want the best care they can get in SF. The quality of the treatment and the quality of the staff is (in my opinion) much greater than at the other hospitals in SF (mind you I almost exclusively deal with the Emergency Rooms) Also, I think that CPMC has the highest rate of C-section of all the SF hospitals. That said I have a few friends who delivered there and had great experiences, without having c-sections. Do as much research as possible, get as much sound advice as you can, interview the Labor and Delivery staff at both hospitals, then go to UC :) Best wishes for a wonderful and safe pregnancy and labor experience no matter where you end up. kristi
I've attended births at all of the SF hospitals. To answer your specific question: UCSF! If you are seeking low intervention, woman/ family centered care, definitely UCSF over CPMC. If you really want it, then go to SFGH, I'm serious. UCSF has some midwives (the FOGG practice) and SFGH has a whole team of them (who train the residents who work at both UCSF and SFGH). That means the OBs and nurses are much more in line with natural birth (at both UCSF and SFGH). Just because SFGH is a public hospital, don't knock it. You will get excellent care there and the L area is really nice looking too (with tubs in all rooms).
Many docs who use CPMC discourage doulas-- if that gives you some idea of the place. Of course, it all depends on your OB or midwife and which nurse you get that day- in ANY location.
As an aside, St Lukes has midwives also and is ramping up to be a great place to give birth, but the facilities aren't quite there yet. Kim (a nurse-midwife)
See also: Childbirth at UCSF