31 answers

Best Places to Give Birth: Chicago Area

My partner and I are planning a September birth at Illinois Masonic. We really like our OB so far (Silvia Bicalho) but I am starting to get nervous about childbirth horror stories: Gruff nurses, too much intervention, episiotomies, Doulas being rendered powerless over hospital policies. We aren't necessarily planning a natural birth, but we would like as little intervention as possible.

Has anyone had any experience at Illinois Masonic or elsewhere? Thank you!!

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I gave birth at Prentice in April and had a good experience. My son was born 27 days before his due date, and came after a very fast labor. I was asked once if I wanted drugs (I didn't), and that was that. The only thing they did contrary to my wishes was take my son away for evaluation by the neonatal docs too soon, but since he was so early, that was OK with me. My husband did have to speak up and insist on going with the baby to the NICU, though.

I can't say enough about the lactation consultants. The one I had (Mary Beth?) was so helpful, and helped us get a good start breastfeeding.

The postpartum rooms are very nice, and you don't have to share them with anyone.

My friend gave birth at IL Masonic almost 12 years ago, and she had nothing but good things to say about her experience. I'd stay away from St. Francis, for anyone else reading this.

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I haven't given birth yet but I am planning on delivering at Prentice. I was at Prentice a few weeks ago when I had a little scare (everything was OK) and the nurses and the doctor were so nice, friendly, bubbly, and helpful. Not to mention the facilities are beautiful! Hope this is helpful!

We gave birth in IL Masonic last year and the nice nurses made up for the ones that seem there to do there work ony. We had a doula and she was allowed in with us and we were allowed all our requests. Have a great birth.

I had the most wonderful experience at Illinois Masonic, but it was with the midwives. I was able to deliver in the "ABC." And I believe that the midwives are pretty much the only ones who do deliveries there. The nice thing about delivering in the alternative birthing center is that all of the nurses present volunteered to be in the center. So they are usually more "earth mama-ish" than not.
I brag about my birth story all the time. My experience there was amazing. But my best friend is a doula (present at my labor and delivery) who recently attended at birth at Illinois Masonic and it was a nightmare because of the nurse on duty. But she has horror stories about doctors and nurses at nearly all of the hospitals. But those stories are always the exception. Most births go great. She prefers the staff at Swedish Covenant.
Good luck! Whatever you choose, just make sure you have supportive people with you who can speak up if things aren't going the way they should.

I gave birth last June at IL Masonic and have no complaints. I had a Midwife, a doula and my huband all there. Dr. Bicalho was actually the attending on duty and she was my surgeon a few years ago also. If/when you go there ask for Marilyn, the lactation consulant, she's great too. She also gave us our tour of the alternative birthing center (ABC). Unfortunaly, the ABC was unavailable when I got there but the hospital was good at letting my doula help me out and allowing me to make my own medical choices.

I will say that Prentice looks much newer and fancier than IM but the aren't very supportive of the idea of natural child birth. Good luck and best wishes.

As I read your concerns, I can tell you that I have had two kids at ill masonic & I'm on my 3rd at this very moment. The medication I have been given has been at my request only, I have had to healthty babies in the past & expect this one to be the same. I wish you the best of luck, as I'm about to welcome my new daughter into this world.

Not to worry you about Illinois Masonic but the impression you are getting from them is what I went through. I had my first son at Illinois Masonic with the same doctor and I was not happy at all with how they handled any of the birth or afterward. The rooms were filthy, the labor and delivery was painful, andt the process was terrible.
We are about to have our second child (due June 13th) late!! Give vibes the baby shows up soon!! But we moved to St. Joseph Hospital. I know the nurses, the rooms are private, and they chose the most natural process as possible. Everyone there is wonderful. I have heard all great things about the place.
I do not mean to scare you about Illinois Masonic but...

I gave birth to my son at IL Masonic and absolutely loved it! I found the nursing staff to be extremely nice and helpful and I had a wonderful experience. I am due with my 2nd baby in 2 weeks, and plan to deliver there again. I have honestly heard horror stories about many hospitals, the worst at Prentice, yet it still has a great reputation, so I think it must just depend on your personal experience. I think if you like and trust your OB, you should stick with her. I chose my OB BECAUSE he was at IL Masonic and I loved it there so much!

I gave birth at Prentice in April and had a good experience. My son was born 27 days before his due date, and came after a very fast labor. I was asked once if I wanted drugs (I didn't), and that was that. The only thing they did contrary to my wishes was take my son away for evaluation by the neonatal docs too soon, but since he was so early, that was OK with me. My husband did have to speak up and insist on going with the baby to the NICU, though.

I can't say enough about the lactation consultants. The one I had (Mary Beth?) was so helpful, and helped us get a good start breastfeeding.

The postpartum rooms are very nice, and you don't have to share them with anyone.

I needed up having an emergency csection at Illinois Masonic and my son was in the NICU for a week. I will NEVER deliver at Illinois Masonic again. One of the NICU didn't do her job and could of killed my son. She swaddled him with a pacifier face down in a blanket-I walked in at 2am and his alarms were going off and turned him over and he was BLUE. NEVER again will I go there. The nurses and doctors during my csection were WONDERFUL-Dr Fitzer and Dr Sami.

I took a tour there with a client of mine, and I was shocked when they showed us the postpartum rooms! Moms have to share with other moms, and the nurse actually told us that "dads usually can't wait to leave anyway...????"
Especially since there is no newborn nursery, so the babies room-in with you all night- but you do not have the help of the dad (or support person)!! And if your room-mate's baby is crying during the night, good luck getting any rest!
I am a labor and delivery nurse in the North Shore, and I have NEVER heard such a "backward", unfamily-oriented remark!!!
I was also disappointed when we saw the alternative birthing center's tub, it was small, and I asked if it filled with water, the RN said, "NO, you can sit on the shower chair, but not fill the tub with water....". hmmmm. hydrotherapy is very important, I feel, in labor, if you desire an unmedicated birth.

Evanston is a wonderful hospital, and I know that Prentice is as well...
If you have any questions and want to email me directly, I would be happy to answer them!
Congrats on your baby:)

Baby Feat, LLC

I delivered in Dec. 06 at Illinois Masonic. I had a positive experience. There are definitely people who want to follow "procedure" but if you have your birth plan in place, and insist on everyone following it, you can have a good experience. A lot had to do with my Doctor. I had a resident that wanted to intervene a lot (since she was new) but I insisted on talking with my General Practicioner. She listened to my requests. It's very hard to think clearly when you have another human being's life at stake, but if you have a good support system with you at the hospital it will help. I wish I would've hired a doula (thought my husband and I could do it ourselves after all the research and classes we took). If you have one, put them in charge. They will pull you through. You are the paying customer. The hospital is the one who has to listen to you.

Hi K.,
We toured Illinois Masonic but decided to go to ENH in Evanston. What swayed us was that IL M has shared recovery rooms. This means that you would share your room with another mom and baby. Furthermore, dads only get to see you an hour before and after regular visiting hours if you are in a shared room. You may get a private room to avoid these downfalls , but if they are filled or you have stingy insurance, you may be in this situation.

ENH only has single recovery rooms so my insurance had no problem covering it. Overall I was very happy with ENH. I didn't make it to the recovery room until 11 pm so my husband would not be allowed to stay with me at IM. My doula and I were respected and my doctor let me push for over 3 hours and did not push C section or meds.
I would highly recommend ENH to any mom-to-be.

edit: we toured IL Masonic in Feb, to give you an idea of hospital policies during the tour. Also, the 'birth center' really was sad. I guess it used to be two rooms but now the birth center is just one labor room that has 80s furnishings, and a shower.

Hi Kristin,
I delivered at IL Masonic 3 weeks ago and was pleased. I was in sun. at 1 A.M. and out by Monday 4 P.M. My only complaint (when they called for a survey) was the stupid NICU Dr.!!! Dr. Ramirez is simply put an A-hole!! My daughter wasn't even in the NICU. The nurses in the triage, labor & delivery and Mother and baby rooms were sweet as pie and very helpful. Not once did they intimidate or push any "theories" or "ideas" on me. I have a 4 year old at home so my husband wouldn't have spent the night with me either way, but when I asked the nurse did say that if a request is made for a husband to stay they do the best they can to accommodate! Hope this helps and best of luck!!!

masonic is the best hospital,they make you feel at home,i give birth to my 3 kids there and i am so happy because i will have my 4th baby there.

Hi K.,

I gave birth at Illinois Masonic with my first son. I had a great experience. My doctor was on call the day I delivered - my practice had a policy that the doctor on call the day you deliver from your practice is who delivers your baby. Originally I was planning on going to Northwestern and started with a OB in their practice and they had the same policy. NW was just too far from my house and I wanted an all women practice which is what I found at Illinois Masonic.

At Illinois Masonic I interacted mostly with my doctor and the residents, who were all awesome. I had a private room as that is what I requested and they had availability. The nurses were nice and the bf specialist were a great help. I continued to call the BF specialists after I went home with questions and they were a great resource. My husband was able to stay over night with me as they had one of those pull out chair beds that they setup for him.

The most important thing to me was to make sure the place I delivered had appropriate level to handle baby emergencies. Both Northwestern and Illinois Masonic had that. I will be having my second baby at Illinois Masonic too.

I believe NW was just remodeled and many people I know were happy there as well. Good luck with your decision.

I thought Prentice was wonderful. I wanted to go as natural as possible and they were very accomodating and listened to my wants. They also have water birth available and the rooms are BEAUTIFUL! It was such a pleasant experience.

Hi Kristin, Congratulations! I gave birth at Masonic (Dr. Bicalho was my OB) in February 2007 and could not have been happier. The nurses love Dr. Bicalho, so I felt like I got special treatment. Dr. B was going to come in to deliver even though she was not on call (I was induced emergently 3 weeks earlier) and came to visit to make sure I was OK. She was in the room the whole time I pushed, allowed me to stay an extra day, helped with breastfeeding, timed my recovery so I got a large post-partum room etc. The nurses will all kind, and any complaints I had (anesthesia residents who were not professional, LC not terribly helpful) I have heard about other hospitals. What was really important to me, was how wonderful Dr. Bicalho was (and is). Therefore, if you like her I would suggest you stay put. You are going to find nursing horror stories at any hospital (including St. Joes, Swedish and Prentice).

Like one of the moms below, I gave birth at Evanston Hospital and was especially grateful for the private recovery room and the fact that the dads get to stay all the time. I can't imagine why any hospital would allow the dads to be pushed out of the initial bonding process--how backwards! (Although I respectfully admit that that policy would work well for a woman who for whatever reason really wanted enforced alone time with the baby, which is indeed the case sometimes.) The nurses at Evanston were all fantastic, there was just one who asked a few too many times when (not IF) I wanted the meds, even though we had made it clear we wanted no pain meds. But she "got it" after several firm reminders to knock it off. I agree that you should tour a few of the area hospitals that your insurance would accept and make the decision after you have seen more than one place. Then you will know you are where you want to be when the time comes. The one place that always comes up as a favorite is West Suburban in the Oak Park area. I haven't seen it but have heard great things about their birthing room and their philosophy on childbirth. I'd skip UIC's hospital. I've heard mixed things, none of which would put it at the top of my list.

Be sure to discuss birthing room etiquette with your doula ahead of time. I had a weird moment with our doula after I asked her in front of the nurses what she thought we should do when we reached a point of making a tough decision. She practically chewed me out after the nurses left the room for having done so, saying that deferring to her would irritate the nurses and reduce her and my credibility. Needless to say, all that did was make me irritated with my doula. How was I supposed to know that and why would I want to be "corrected" during my labor? But I digress. . . :-)

Have a great birth and CONGRATULATIONS!!!

My friend gave birth at IL Masonic almost 12 years ago, and she had nothing but good things to say about her experience. I'd stay away from St. Francis, for anyone else reading this.

All three of my kids were born at Prentice hospital - the most recent in February. The nursing staff was great. And I was thankful that there was a NICU at the hospital. Unfortunately my son suffered a double lung collapse. The nurses caught his respiratory failure. Thankfully there was a state of the art NICU in the same hospital that could care for the both of us. Thankfully he is doing well now. Best of luck!

I had an all natural birth at Northwestern Memorial with the midwife group there. It was wonderful. They are very supportive and will support whatever type of birth you want to have. I don't know anything about Il Masonic, but if you stay there, I would strongly encourage you to have a doula with you to advocate for you and your choices. Really talk to your OB about your preferences and birth philosophy and try to determine if her philosophy is consistent with yours. Bring a birth plan to the hospital to give to the nurses when you are in labor. The thinking woman's guide to a better birth is a good book that helps you to understand the types of interventions that may occur and to make more informed decisions about them. I think that you want to be in an environment and, especially, with people who will work to help your birth stay consistent with what you want.

I don't have experience at Illinois Masonic, but when I delivered I wanted everything on my terms, I made sure that my OB was aware of everything I wanted also your partner is your advicate so make sure the two of you talk about everything you want for this birth and don't let the nurses or doctors force you into something you don't want unless it is the best thing for the baby.

Also don't let other peoples horror stories freak you out. Try to keep your self calm and relie on your partner to help you and find a postition that is comfortable for you to labor in, for me it was standing up facing my husband with my arms around his neck swaying back and fourth. If you can keep your self calm you will go into this transe it is amazing. I labored for 12 hours with just a local until my daughter got stuck and we ended up with an emergency C-section (which wasn't bad at all) 9lb 7oz and 22inches (I'm only 5'3) we were all happy. If you do have to have a c-section it isn't that bad I was up walking that night and I was awake for the whole birth of my daughter. Just remember relie on your partner, stay calm and do what ever is best for the baby and you should have a great birth.

Full time working mom to the most wonderful amazing 3yr old daughter, and just as wonderful and amazing husband of 8 yrs.

Hi K.,

I delivered at Advocate Illinois Masonic and loved it. They have a midwife clinic there as well, and that was great because the midwives attended the birth rather than a doctor. I was induced and other than the induction, there was no intervention. After my water broke, they even started putting fluid back in so that the baby would not have any distress for the rest of the labor (I was almost dilated to a 3 at the time). They didn't even check me between 3cm and 10cm, which was nice. I really had a good experience there, but I was with the midwives and not an OB (I never saw a doctor). The nice thing is I still delivered at the hospital and knew that doctors were nearby in case of an emergency. Good luck with your choice!! Don't believe all the horror stories you hear - it's easy for people to remember and talk about the things that didn't go the way they planned as opposed to what went well, and our experiences are always colored by our perception. Again, good luck! And congratulations!!

I gave birth at Illinois Masonic. I loved it. The nurses were so friendly and helpful. The documents lady was pushy, but everyone else was unbelievably nice. The food was outstanding!!! I missed it when I came home. I would definitely reccommend Illinois Masonic

I did not have a very positive experience at Prentice. I won't get into to much detail 'cause I could bend your ear for an hour over this one, suffice it to say a lot of what you mention above happened. While there were some excellent compassionate nurses there, overall it was very inconsistent and as a 1st time mom I didn't know enough to be able to tell the difference between good and bad information (in regards to breastfeeding anyway). If I had to do it all over again I would not go there.

Our doula actually had her baby at Evanston. From what I've heard her experience was quite different. Her baby was premature and in the NICU and I'm pretty sure she felt he received excellent care.

A close friend of mine had her baby at Ill. Masonic and also thought the care was excellent.

I had a wonderful experience with the midwifery group at Swedish Covenant. I was able to have a natural birth and I felt very supported. Most of the nurses were wonderful, although there were a few that were a little rough around the edges. The private postpartum room was great.

Good luck and congratulations!

Northwestern/Prentice!! I had the best experience there, and they have a brand new beautiful facility too. Congratulations!! Get your sleep now. :)

I have a friend who's currently 20 weeks pregnant at Il. Masonic and her complaint is that she still hasn't gotten a 4-D ultrasound! I go to Lutheran General, and I get one every time I get an ultrasound, and have since my very first one at 10 weeks!

You know what I didn't think of before but would be really smart for you to do? Go online and look for hospitals that have baby and birthing classes. Like I went to Advocate Health online and found out that Shepherd Hospital offers tons of cool classes in birthing. I think the number of education classes about giving birth says something about the hospital. Lutheran General has a bunch which is great but I signed my husband up for something at Shepherd and we may do more there.

Not sure about the other things you mentioned, but I have a friend who is a neonatal intensive care nurse at another hospital and she said that Masonic is the worst place to deliver in case there are any complications with your baby. Their N.I.C.U does not have the equipment or training to cover many emergencies. I think the best place is Prentice.

I had a TERRIBLE experience at Prentice. I had a c section and the resident doing the spinal dug around in my back for over half an hour before finally getting the needle in correctly. The nurses are very, very mean and belittling. The pain management simply didn't exist. They did not want to hand out pain meds for me and told me to put "mind over matter." It is one thing if you are choosing a natural birth to work with these techniques, but I don't think a surgical patient should be told to use imagery as a way of coping with pain. I will not be returning to Prentice under any circumstances. It was a terrible shock for they have such a great reputation. I would have to say the nurses really sealed the deal.

If your doc is on board with your birth plan it will probably be fine. But ultimately, consider this: MOST women do not need an OB/GYN for their pregnancy and birth. OB/GYNs are first and foremost surgeons who have been specially trained to care for high-risk women. If you are not high risk, it is to your advantage to be treated as if you are not high risk. I really think for a typical healthy pregnancy a midwife or even a family doctor will provide you with better care because they have a totally different philosophy that they work with. Instead of assuming the worst and intervening prophylactically, a midwife assumes that your body knows what to do and will faciliate the natural process, asking for help only if it's needed. (Note: some OB/GYNs have a midwifery philosophy just like some CNMs have a more "medical" philosophy - this is just a generalization)

In any case, I think Illinois Masonic has a birth center within it, doesn't it? Can you choose to have your baby there? West Suburban hospital in Oak Park also has some alternative birthing rooms. I think any hospital that has midwives practicing in it is going to be *better* at non-intervention, simply because the nurses and staff are used to it. So Swedish Covenant and UIC would also be decent choices.

If you want to avoid unnecessary interventions educate yourself on the birthing process, consider hiring a doula, and go to the hospital when you're well into active labor. Good luck with your pregnancy and birth!!

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