Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org

Alta Bates: Labor & Delivery

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > Alta Bates: Labor & Delivery


Alta Bates Birth Stories Related Pages

Stories from 2009


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 exoperienced, 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@hotmail.com. 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 http://www.doulaplusacupressure.com/pages/1/ 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&D 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&D 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&D 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). http://www.thebirthhome.com 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&D 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&D - 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&D. 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@yahoo.com


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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D 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 do....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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D 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&D. 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&D 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&D 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!!
Adriane


Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Feb 3, 2013


The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network