ANTIOCH -- French filmmakers said au revoir to Sutter Delta Medical Center this week after spending countless hours with those on its maternity ward.
A three-person team from France has been shooting footage of women and their caregivers at the Antioch facility for a documentary on the societal attitudes and practices surrounding childbirth on four continents.
Titled "Born Around the World," a film that's scheduled to air next year on French television, will explore these similarities and differences in the United States, France, India and Africa.
The freelance journalists in Antioch -- the first of their stops -- are one of two teams working on the project, which will consist of vignettes also featuring patients and hospital workers from the Paris suburb of Clamart, Pondicherry in southern India, and Senegal's capital, Dakar.
The team chose Sutter Delta from a list of hospitals that a health care ratings company singled out for their top-notch maternity wards.
During the 23-day shoot at Sutter Delta, Pauline Plante noticed some striking contrasts.
Whereas in the United States entire families might be on hand to witness the birth of another member, "in France we just have maybe the father or grandmother," she said.
And although here cameras are all but a given in the delivery room, the opposite is true in France, she said.
While colleague Emilie Porry sometimes focused her lens on an expectant mother, she also shot from the vantage point of hospital personnel.
There was the nurse who was helping deliver babies when she received the joyous news that she'd had another grandchild; another story features a doctor who came in on her day off to hustle between the rooms of two first-time moms, one of them just 16 years old and the other, 44.
Porry also captured some anxious moments when the surgical scar from a woman's cesarean-section began to tear while she was delivering vaginally.
"It came right on time!" Porry said of the baby's arrival.
She and Plante noted that c-sections¿ are more common here than in France whereas epidural anesthetics are less popular. Porry also was struck by Sutter Delta's emphasis on the importance of women breast-feeding their newborns.
Another difference between the two countries is that in France, midwives oversee deliveries with the help of nurses; doctors are involved only if complications arise or the patient has a high-risk pregnancy, Porry said.
French audiences also will see a contrast between the somewhat stark ambience of hospitals in their country and the quasi-hotel setting of Sutter Delta's labor and delivery unit, which has Jacuzzi-style tubs in some rooms, she said.
A more telling observation about the two countries is the security measures that the Antioch facility has in place to ensure that mother and child remain together. Newborns here wear electronic bracelets that trigger an alarm and automatically shut down exits if someone tries to carry them off the premises. In France, infants don't receive these warning devices, Porry said, adding that hospital employees are much less likely to question visitors roaming the building.
"Anyone can go anywhere," she said.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/rowenacoetsee.