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Issue date: July 21, 2000

It's only natural It's only natural (July 21, 2000)

Birthing center finds a home on Railroad Avenue

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Storks: Bring your deliveries to downtown Pleasanton.

City Council on Tuesday night approved the application of Dr. Michael Bleecker and Beah Haber, certified nurse midwife, to open a birthing center at 4441 Railroad Ave.

"We're very excited about this," said Sally Ramsay, office manager for 20 years at Bleecker's Tri-Valley Ob-Gyn Medical Group on Santa Rita Road. "Women want to give birth in a home setting."

Birthing centers offer an alternative to hospitals to women who are in low-risk pregnancies. "Most of the patients don't want the monitoring and lack of privacy," said Ramsay. "This is an intimate experience for them and their families."

The center will feature two tubs for woman who prefer underwater births. This is an increasingly popular option, said Ramsay. "Many of the patients actually do labor in the tub and deliver in the tub. Whatever they feel comfortable in. The doctor is right there... the baby pops right up like a cork."

The Planning Department recommended the conditional use permit for the Railroad Avenue location. "We found it to be an excellent fit," reported planner Greg Plucker.

The area has mixed uses, mainly commercial. A fire station is directly across the street. The landlord has agreed to lease parking spaces in the rear garage to the birthing center to prevent parking impacts on the neighborhood. The house, which was built in 1911 by Larkin Locke, Pleasanton's constable in 1902, is currently being used as an office.

The facility on Railroad Avenue will have two birthing rooms, each with an adjoining bathroom, which would contain a birthing tub. The center will also have a small waiting room with toilet facilities and an office.

The house has a porch and a fenced in garden area, which will be available for women to use while they await delivery. The patients will be asked not to walk through nearby residential areas.

The patient would arrive at the home at the beginning of her labor and remain at the center until six to eight hours after the delivery, according to the Planning Department report. "Dr. Bleecker has indicated that his experience shows most women do not have more than one other family member, besides herself and her partner, present during the birth," said the report.

Bleecker estimated that one to two births will take place at the birthing center per week. Tours of expectant parents will be limited to three couples at a time only one evening a week.

The Tri-Valley Ob-Gyn Medical Group has been doing deliveries at its Santa Rita Road facility, which also has a birthing tub. "They are very well informed patients, educated in what they want and what they don't want. Most have done a lot of research in home birth vs. hospitals," said Ramsay. She said 60-65 percent are first-time mothers.

"A couple women have transferred to a hospital during labor," she said. "Maybe they haven't progressed, they're getting really exhausted, or need medication to help them along."

The cost for a birthing center delivery is $2,500, said Ramsay, and patients often pay themselves if their insurance will not cover it.

The council voted 4-0 to make birthing centers a conditionally permitted use downtown. Vice Mayor Tom Pico abstained because his accounting office is also on Railroad Avenue. <@$p>



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