We look at the design of hospital maternity and post-natal units and the products that go into them.
Healthcare environments have come under the spotlight in recent years, with a much greater emphasis on using design to improve and enhance the experience for patients, staff and visitors.
Maternity units have a very-particular function – to support mums-to-be and their partners to deliver their babies and to provide support for mother and baby post birth.
Whether a woman delivers naturally or by surgical intervention – the environment in which they, their partners, and their babies stay can have a very-positive, or very-negative, effect on the whole birthing experience.
She explains, ““Increasingly, hospitals want to make maternity and post-natal units a home-from-home environment. Some people will spend a long time there, so it’s about ambience and creating a less clinical looking environment for mother, baby, and visitors.”
Design ethos at Glan Clwyd
Telago says that basically room design should all be about "giving women choice and control over their labour and birth, to normalise the process and welcome family participation.”
She adds, “Modern units have somewhere where partners can stay overnight and flexible areas for family members, including siblings.
“Waiting areas are designed for comfort and the safety of babies is paramount, with monitoring systems being built into the wards.
“Even fixtures and fittings like window sills, ironmongery and washbasins are specified with careful consideration to key drivers such as hygiene.”
Light and clean surfaces
Aesthetics are now being considered when designing flooring in maternity units instead of just focusing on hygiene.
At Glan Clwyd Forbo’s Sphera Element flooring was chosen. These homogeneous vinyl sheets were laid throughout the unit and hand cut to create eye-catching butterfly designs.
The ability to personalise flooring and other building products in this way is becoming popular in specialist departments such as maternity units and children’s wards.
Forbo’s Julie Haake said: “Vinyls are popular as they offer a smooth finish, look light and modern, and are easy to clean.
“In light and modern grey and taupe shades, they create a much-more-homely environment, rather than looking too clinical like traditional blues and greens.”
The priorities of mums-to-be
International research has shown that their main priorities are cleanliness, comfortable furniture, control over lighting and temperature, access to birthing aids such as birthing pools, and privacy.
They also want to be moved as little as possible, so product designers are increasingly being urged to come up with ranges that are flexible.
Sidhil’s range by Drive Devilbiss includes Chrysalis birthing beds which are equipped to manage all stages of childbirth and configured to help women maintain more-natural positions during labour and birth.
Stryker’s LD304 Birthing Bed is described as ‘a delivery partner’ as it not only offers comfort for mums-to-be, but also helps to prevent strain and injury among healthcare staff.
And the Affinity Four birthing bed from Hill-Rom provides a better birthing experience through a number of special features including a stow-away foot section, calf supports, a built-in IV pole cradle, and automatic pelvic tilt function.
The needs of birthing partners are also being considered, with a plethora of new seating designs that act as bedside chairs and fold-down beds for overnight stays.
Telago said the design of maternity units is all about “considering the patient pathway and looking at how the environment, and the choice of products used in that environment, can support the process and enhance the experience for everyone involved”.