Delivering at Kaiser Permanente (Zion in San Diego)

Kaiser’s labor and delivery unit is unique in that you may not get the doctor you’ve been working with when you deliver your baby. Since their doctors are not on call, you get the doctor on duty at the time of your delivery.

I was in the hospital for 24 hours and interacted with over 50 different individuals from Kaiser. The labor team was generally better than the postpartum nurses, but even within each of the teams there were varying degrees of skill level, professionalism, and warmth. I really didn’t like my labor experience at Kaiser because there was no one point person that stayed with me throughout the experience. The personnel change shifts every 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours so you keep having to reintroduce yourself, your preferences, and learn who your new nurse/doctor is.

Labor and Delivery Care at Kaiser

When I was admitted to the hospital I started with one nurse who stayed with me her entire shift. She was really sweet and since I was her only patient at the time she was in the room inputting information on the computer and getting me prepped. She started an IV line with saline lock which was not put in right the first time so that was painful. She called another nurse to take it out and put a new one in my other arm which worked fine. From there I was induced with a pill inserted into the cervix every 6 hours which would soften the cervix. After 12 hours I was having significant labor contractions and eventually asked for the epidural. I asked for some drug first which worked at getting me drowsy when there was no contractions but intensified the contractions when they came. This made me really want the epidural immediately afterward. It was a quick procedure and I just sang a song with my husband when they got it in between contractions. I was very impressed with how fast the epidural worked and wish I had gotten it sooner. I waited until I was 7 inches dilated. Once I got the epidural they started a pitocin drip  to get my contractions going stronger. Several times during my labor the doctor urged me to get a C-section. I wasn’t sure why since neither my baby or I was under distress so I kept avoiding it and asking for more time. The doctor was a young resident who didn’t have strong bedside manners so that made me even more defensive when she insisted on the C-section. After 23 hours of labor she got a second doctor to give me his opinion and he said the baby was stuck so we should go for the C-section. I asked if we could try vacuum which they agreed to and by the second attempt he came out. I did have significant blood loss and 3rd degree lacerations which took about 10 weeks to heal from. After this delivery experience I wish I had gotten the C-section.


  • If you’re not comfortable with the doctor on call, ask for a second opinion. Talk to your nurses and midwives to get their thoughts on what’s going on with you and what they would do.
  • If your doctor recommends a C-section, ask why and make sure you get as much information as possible to make your decision. Don’t feel like you have no say when it comes to your body. But also don’t be so stubborn about your birth preferences. The doctors are generally working in your best interest. (You may want to watch the movie, The Business of Being Born, which was made by TV Host Ricki Lake).
  • Have a Doula who you’ve developed a relationship with in the room as your voice, gatekeeper, and support.
  • Bring your birth plan with you with your preferences outlined clearly. Give it to the nurse and have extra copies. BUT don’t give the hospital staff a hard time if your birthing experience doesn’t go as planned. Go with the flow knowing they are aware of your preferences but are recommending what’s best for you at the moment.
  • Don’t overpack. Read the hospital bag for what the bring.
  • Use hypnotherapy to help your mind relax. This was expecially crucial for me during recovery immediately after my birth. I couldn’t stop convulsing until my husband played my hypnotherapy tracks for me.

Postpartum Care at Kaiser

After delivering the baby in the postpartum unit I continued to have way too many people come into my room. I didn’t get much rest because the staff had to check my vitals every hour since I had pre-eclampsia. But on top of those visits there were people popping in just to introduce themselves during the shift changes. That was totally unnecessary. It wasn’t until we asked them to put up a sign on the door that said “mommy and baby resting” that the visits slowed down.


  • Ask for a sign to be put on your door that says “mommy and baby resting, do not disturb.” This will keep unnecessary visitors from barging into your room just to introduce themselves. Additionally, ask your nurse to time all the necessary visits together (vital check, food arrival, etc), instead of each person coming into your room every 15 minutes.
  • If there is one nurse that you really don’t like, make it known that you don’t want this person caring for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone else. There are several staff members onsite at one time and if you feel strongly about someone you can request a replacement. This is especially important if you’re staying for a few days during recovery. You want the best care you can get while you’re there (you are definitely paying top dollar for it!)
  • Feed your baby as often as you can. My nurses all had different things to say about this. One said the baby had enough nourishment for 24 hours after delivery so I didn’t have to worry if he didn’t latch on, or if my milk didn’t come. A day later my son was taken away to the NICU and I feel that if I fed him every 3 hours on the dot, he would have been in better health. If your milk isn’t coming in, give him formula. I was so against formula that I even threw away all our formula gifts (not knowing how much they cost!). He didn’t have formula for the first 11 months of life (except that week in the NICU)). Bottom line: It’s more important that your baby doesn’t starve than not giving him formula.
  • Read what no one tells you about recovery.

NICU Care at Kaiser

My baby started showing signs of jaundice and it wasn’t until our lactation consultant visited our room that he was sent to the NICU. She noticed he was breathing quite rapidly which was an indicator of an infection. They ran some tests, drew some blood and conducted a spinal tap (poor baby) all to find that there were no signs of infection. But because they wanted to be on the safe side, they started him on a 7 day antibiotic which involved having an IV line inserted into his tiny little veins. They also had him on light therapy to get rid of the jaundice. That wasn’t so bad except they didn’t let me take him out of his plastic box to hold him for too long because he needed to be under the lights 24 hours a day unless he was feeding. The nurses in the NICU also varied in likability, skill, and knowledge. They all had different tips and advice when it came to breastfeeding but I knew they were giving him the best care. It was a bit frustrating when the different nurses insisted on their breastfeeding techniques as I was struggling to get baby to latch. The NICU had room for about 30 babies. Some had been there for months and others like myself just a week. Each nurse had 2-6 babies they were caring for. You also had to scrub up to get in and only 2 visitors were allowed at  time. They offer an overnight room if you request it (which can only be done the day before). You can stay in the overnight room which provides a bed and a reclining chair for dad. It’s not comfortable, but is free and lets you stay close to your baby. While we were there, the nurse knew to come into my overnight room with the baby whenever it was time for feeding. When he was done with the light therapy, our baby was carted into our room and stayed with us (still in the NICU overnight room) and the nurses just came into the room every time he needed his antibiotics which was every 12-24 hours.

Make sure you read a full account of our NICU experience at Kaiser


  • I felt so guilty about being responsible for Spencer ending up in the NICU that I had to be by his side 24/7. I didn’t want to miss this crucial first week of life so that I could bond with him. This meant that instead of resting as I should have, I sat next to his box and tried to breastfeed whenever I could. I sat on my sore bum for hours at a time and I’m sure that did not help with recovery. The NICU is a time when your baby is in the best care possible so take advantage and rest. Go home, shower, eat, and sleep. You’ll spend the rest of your life with your little one.
  • They stuck a pacifier in his mouth which I didn’t like. I had ideas that he would have nipple confusion, mess up his teeth, or walk around as a 5 year old with a binkie in his mouth and I didn’t want his first week of life to start that way. But the pacifier soothed him when nothing else could. It let him sleep longer and that meant more rest for both of us. He’s 1 year old now and still walks around with a pacifier, but I’m OK with that. Babies are born with an intense sucking reflex and I’d rather have a pacifier in his mouth all day than my boob.
  • Get a lactation consultant. Apparently ALL NICU nurses were supposedly trained with breastfeeding, but I found that they each had varying levels of knowledge and experience with consulting moms. You can request a lactation consultant to meet you while you’re about to nurse. Ask lots of questions and have a friend or your spouse take notes or be present (you’re not going to remember instructions well).

I did have a second baby and have written about my Sutter Health Davis delivery experience as well as what it’s like to be pregnant the second time around. The hospital experience was different between one that was more of a preventative hospital versus one that was a natural birth friendly hospital.


4 thoughts on “Delivering at Kaiser Permanente (Zion in San Diego)

  1. liz on

    my daughter was born at 25wks 2days and we spent 4 months to the day in this exact NICU. I feel a little bit scorned at your story. These Drs and nurses cared for YOUR BABY! How could anyone complain about that unless they had BAD care? There is nothing more important that your child, these professionals at this particular NICU care for your baby with love! 4 months there every single day, i definitely have seniority to make this claim. it surprises me that you wouldnt praise them for getting your child well. Youre lucky you were there.

    • Ellen on

      Thanks for your comment. You’re right, they did deliver quality care at the best they could. I was just overwhelmed with the amount of people I interacted with. If you read my post about why having a NICU baby isn’t bad, you’ll see that I did appreciate the experience in some ways.

  2. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the death of my granddaughter. She was born at 6 months. My daughter went many times to the hospital because she was bleeding. She had numerous sonograms and each one showed a beautiful, active baby. My poor daughter saw a different doctor every time she went. They outright told her that they were not going to put her on bed rest. It was my daughter’s first baby. When we went in on the morning of July 24th, 2012 when they put the monitor on my daughter the baby’s heart was still beating a strong 160 beats. They immediately took the monitor off, told my daughter she was going to deliver and put her in a room. The doctors on duty did nothing for my daughter or granddaughter. I stood by my daughter and watched the doctors exchange glances as my beautiful granddaughter came out feet first. (They knew she was breech.) I will never forget, til the day I die, the sight of my baby granddaughter’s foot as it went in the air and she died a horrible, strangling death while being born. It was if she was saying to me, “Help me Grandma, I’m strangling .” Kaiser, by their lack of care, killed my granddaughter. I knew Obama Care would be coming after my generation, but I never realized that they were going to do nothing to save small babies because they would require too much care at a great cost. I say Obama Care because one of their representatives proudly told me that Kaiser was the protocol for Obama Care.

  3. Reina on

    If anyone can give advise on delivering early via Kaiser in north county San Diego, I’d greatly appreciate it. We were told only Zion could care for preemie’s. My daughter is currently at Zion, and it’s too far for us to support her living in north county. Thank you

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