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BirthSpace: an evidence-based guide to birth environment design

By Bec Jenkinson, Natalie Josey and Sue Kruske


A safe and satisfying birth experience depends, in part, on the level of stress experienced by the birthing woman. While other aspects, such as models of care, have seen considerable change in recent years, most birth rooms remain relatively clinical environments. This guide aims to review the available evidence on birth environment design to identify features that minimise maternal stress, and facilitate the physiology of labour and birth, thereby contributing to safe and satisfying birth experiences for all women. While some environmental changes will be appropriate only for women anticipating uncomplicated labour and birth, many of the environmental changes can be made to improve the birthing experience of all women, irrespective of risk status. For many women, the hospital birth environment is foreign and provokes fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety can interrupt the delicate neuro-hormonal influences that drive labour and birth, making intervention more likely. Intervention, in turn, is associated with greater risk of a dissatisfying birth experience, trauma and postnatal mood disorders with potentially life-long consequences for the wellbeing of women, babies and families. There is growing evidence that birth spaces can be designed to feel safe and calming, and that these are associated with reduced intervention rates, good clinical outcomes and positive birthing experiences for women

Publisher: Queensland Centre for Mothers & Babies, The University of Queensland
Year: 2014
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