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Places to Give Birth in Chicago: Illinois Masonic

Updated: Jul 14

Part 2 of my series about places to give birth in and around the Chicago area features Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital. Illinois Masonic has a long and rich history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago.


entrance to Illinois Masonic hospital in Lakeview Chicago, one of the places you can give birth supported by a doula

Illinois Masonic is a teaching hospital located in Lakeview with a long history of supporting the queer community in Boystown. During the AIDS epidemic, Illinois Masonic was one of the only hospitals that was treating people with AIDS. I worked with a client who was born during the crisis and her mother chose to give birth here as a show of support: many people were avoiding the hospital because they were treating patients with AIDS. If you walk straight towards the lake from the hospital, you end up in the Chicago AIDS Garden. This institution is an important part of our queer history.


Now, Illinois Masonic supports gender affirming care and has a very inclusive setting (gay flags everywhere!). When my own partner was their for top surgery, we were welcomed by many in the alphabet mafia. For all of these reasons, Illinois Masonic will always have a special place in my heart.


Illinois Masonic is part of the Advocate network which is the largest health system in Illinois. Advocate is a non-profit, faith-based system created in 1995 when Evangelical and Lutheran systems merged. The system includes 11 hospitals.


Illinois Masonic Experience

Before you go all rainbow-heart-eyes and sign up to give birth here, you need to know some things about the facility. First of all, it's old. The birthing rooms are not fancy and are in fact somehow both cramped and sparse. Triage is less cramped, more sparse. Not pretty. To get to Labor & Delivery, you have to go through a maze, down several long hallways, and into an elevator.


a labor chair in a room at Illinois Masonic, a hospital in Lakeview Chicago where you can labor and give birth with doula supported care

There are some birth tools, including birth balls and stools. No tubs. If cozy waterbirth is what you seek, this is not your facility.


I know most people are more concerned about their level of care than the actual facility. I agree. Aesthetics can only get you so far. The summary is that care can vary greatly: there are some truly excellent doctors. I mean, like, take their coat off and sit with you for as long as you need GOOD doctors (shout out to Dr. Brenda A. Darrell and Dr. Brady J. Reis). However, Illinois Masonic is a teaching hospital, so most of your care is delivered by residents - and that is where you get the variability. I know some of my clients like to support students and learners, others prefer to skip it during the vulnerable time of birth.


In any setting, you can always ask for the attending doctor, but you may have to wait a while for them and there's no guarantee that they are available.


Key Statistics & Information

Unfortunately, Illinois Masonic has no reported their statistics to LeapFrog, my normal source for checking important statistics. All of these numbers are estimates, some pulled from birthguidechicago.com. I was able to pull some stats from a 2021-22 Illinois report card.

  • OB led care for all patients (see note below)

  • 900-1600 births per year

  • Primary Cesarean Rate: 14.3%

    • The WHO recommends a 10-15% rate maximum

    • U.S. National average was 32.4% in 2023, and has increased every year for 4 years

  • Epidural rate: no data

  • Induction rate: no data

  • No data on doula support

  • No waterbirth

  • Supports VBAC

    • 54 VBACs in 2022

  • Perinatal Level III: highest level of care

  • Visitors: 2 visitors per patient

    • Children 12 and under need special approval from the medical team

  • 71% of babies exclusively breast/chest fed

    • Offers a breastfeeding support group on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month with a lactation consultant

  • Eating and drinking is restricted to clear fluids and foods only (broth, jello, etc.)


A note on midwifery at Illinois Masonic: the hospital was home to the second oldest midwifery program in the state, which seems to have been strong until about 2021. At that time, staff changed and although the website still states that midwifery care is available I was only able to find two staff members and one seems to be in a "supervisor" role.


Services & Amenities

There is a comfort room for families with coffee and a TV in the postpartum area, but not in the Labor and Delivery area. As I mentioned above, Illinois Masonic doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. That said, many hospitals started requiring patients and their support team to stay in the labor room during Covid and that hasn't changed much as we have entered peri-pandemic times.


Insurance

You can use this tool to check and see which locations in the Advocate system take your insurance.


Next Steps

If you are interested in learning more about birth at Illinois Masonic, I recommend that you call and ask for a tour. A virtual tour is available here. Hospital reviews online tend to be fairly poor overall, so be careful about what you read on the internet. Ideally, you want to talk to others who have given birth there and/or people who work there. Or talk to a doula!

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