Natural childbirth aims to respect the physiological process of childbirth with minimal obstetric intervention, avoiding actions that are not essential to ensure the safety of the baby or the mother.
However the concept of security is very controversial according to the country where we are, although WHO and national governments increasingly recommend the evolution towards less interventionist births, the fact is that the number of instrumented births varies greatly from one country to another. Spain is one of the European countries with the highest number of instrumented deliveries only surpassed by Ireland.*
In the maternity area, undoubtedly the Nordic countries are at the head of Europe, not only by having the lowest rates of instrumented births with the corresponding improvement of the recovery periods of mothers, but also because they have an enviable policy for reconciling motherhood and professional life.
In Spain, applications for natural childbirth care are growing every year, only in Catalonia, in 2010, applications for natural childbirth tripled and for this reason the number of accredited hospitals increased from 5 to 28 centers in the period 2005 to 2010. Although cesarean intervention is indicated only in 15% of births, in Catalonia it is actually applied to 23% of births in public clinics and nearly to 40% of birth in private clinics.
To host a natural birth, the hospital must not only have professional trained personnel to attend the patient, but also facilities must be adapted to receive the mother preventing possible complications. Natural birth care facilities are individualized spaces prepared to respond by an instrumental or surgical intervention the patient in case of emergency.
The needs of the patient
In architectural design, spaces must be designed in relation to the human activity that they will host. The tendency to excessively medicalize a natural physiological process such as the childbirth, has led the industry to design cold and technological spaces in which the mother is at the center of the room where she is immobilized and where she remains subject to the decisions of the medical team.
By contrast, in natural childbirth, the freedom of movement of women is guaranteed and she may decide the most suitable position at all times depending on the evolution of the process. It has a bed, a bath and enough space to walk and sit when needed. Lighting, sound, color, temperature, room layout, furniture design and materials are selected to provide a sense of security and tranquility.
Nor should we forget the new protagonist of the space that will be the baby, or the whole family involved in the process such as the father and grandparents, as well as the medical support staff who should have the means to control the process and to be prepared to intervene in case of emergency, but always respecting the privacy of the mother.
Designing a mother-child care facility for natural childbirth
The space must ensure:
– A reception area to receive the patient in a private room where a first examination is performed and which is connected through a clear way to the birth room.
– A single room where the whole process of waiting, birth and early postpartum is performed to then, be transferred to a conventional room.
– Direct connection of the room with the area of infants and reanimation as well as the surgical area, in case of complications in childbirth.
– Distinction of space for family and mother.
Characteristics of the space:
– The furniture will preferably be made of natural materials free of toxic substances, such as wood and non-synthetic textiles, plastics should be avoided.
– The emergency surgical equipment is hidden behind panels but easily accessible.
– Natural light can be controlled by curtains and blinds according to the needs of the patient.
– The use of materials and colors associated to domestic environments is highly recommended.
– The bed and bath are at areas with privacy to provide a sense of security to the mother rather than in the center of the room.
– The space is acoustically soundproofed and it must be isolated from the rest of the hospital, protecting the privacy of the mother.
– There is a provision of additional items such as balls, strings, pads, grab bars or birthing chairs.
The design of the space plays a fundamental role in the success of the process of natural childbirth and should be designed by a specialized team capable of conceiving different and unique rooms integrated into the hospital infrastructure.
* Data obtained from Europeristat report, published in 2010 which collects statistics from 29 countries of the European Union in relation to perinatal health from 1999 to 2010.