Reimagining Birthing

In today's evolving healthcare landscape, a pressing concern emerges from the heart of maternal care in the United States. With a staggering maternal mortality rate of 23.8 per 100,000 pregnancies, which equated to 861 maternal deaths in 2020, the current birthing model in hospitals clearly demands a transformation1.

Tragically, what should be a monumental life event is often medicalized, leading to a void of empathy and patient-centricity. This medicalized approach, where childbirth is treated more as a clinical condition than a profound life event, has long-lasting implications on the overall experience of mothers-to-be.

However, not all is bleak. Research from Perkins&Will aims to bridge this very gap, advocating for an obstetrics program anchored in patient-centered care. A cornerstone of this research was the narrative literature review that examined the clinical intricacies of labor and delivery care. This detailed scrutiny highlighted the pivotal role of spatial conditions, such as the environment of delivery rooms, in influencing childbirth outcomes. By juxtaposing these findings against the prevailing standards in obstetrics facilities, the research carved out a strategic roadmap to rejuvenate the birthing model.

A meticulous evaluation of current obstetrics facilities underscored the challenges embedded in the existing workflows. Using this as a foundation, the research leveraged insights from interviews to craft specific design guidelines, culminating in a comprehensive checklist. This checklist, a distillation of extensive research, presents a design blueprint for crafting a women-centric healthcare department within hospitals.

It is worth noting the transformative power of the built environment in the context of maternal care. Several factors, spanning social, economic, cultural, and physiological domains, influence maternal mortality. Among these, the built environment stands out in its importance. Numerous studies have endorsed the therapeutic benefits of well-ventilated spaces adorned with windows and providing access to nature. These elements not only accelerate the healing process but also significantly impact an individual’s overall well-being. When it comes to childbirth, a serene and secure environment can profoundly optimize a woman's physiological and mental faculties, ensuring a smoother birthing experience.

Given that most childbirths currently transpire in hospital settings, where environments often lean towards clinical sterility rather than warmth, a shift in design philosophy becomes imperative. This research not only underscores this need but also lays out a pragmatic path forward. Four in-depth case studies were pivotal in this endeavor, providing a granular understanding of departmental configurations, aesthetic considerations, and operational dynamics.

These insights, combined with industry expert opinions, ultimately contributed to the design checklist's creation. This checklist seamlessly intertwines spatial configurations, room designs, and essential amenities, ensuring a holistic approach that accounts for social, operational, and environmental factors.

Overall, as healthcare providers and designers grapple with the complexities of modern maternal care, it is vital to recognize and remedy the shortcomings of our current birthing models. With the aid of comprehensive research and a patient-centered design ethos, we can genuinely elevate the childbirth experience