Understanding experiences in hospital-based maternity settings

Evidence-based guidelines have been developed for midwife-led units (RCM, 2012) in line with the research. There is, however, a limited knowledge-base on the application of these findings to the acute maternity settings such as labour wards and delivery suites in the hospital-based maternity settings. This research project was initiated in collaboration with the Design Council to start the process of filling this gap. The goal was to identify potential opportunities to improve aspects of the experience using design, grounded in an evidence base, and to start to outline briefs for subsequent phases of work. This summary presents an overview of the findings from the research phase in hospital-based maternity settings.

The project started with an initial scoping of the research literature, observations and interviews in two maternity units and wider consultations within midwifery. A total of 8 themes and 38 insights were identified. These could be grouped into three main headings namely, understanding and interpreting information, what people really value, and the moments that stick.

Three opportunity areas for improving experiences in hospital-based maternity settings were also highlighted. These are presented with the context, the problem specification, and opportunity questions.
Opportunity area 1: Preparing for the birth experience
Opportunity area 2: ‘Transition points’ in the birthing experience
Opportunity area 3: A continuous journey to prepare for pregnancy and parenthood

There are additional resources from this project to be made available for use in education, learning, and research agendas. As for practice and policy within maternity, the findings and opportunities highlighted in this summary can be developed into design briefs for local, regional or national applications of design in maternity care. This work continues under the Better Births Initiative led by the Royal College of Midwives through a collaborative effort.


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Rupa Chilvers, Royal College of Midwives
Louise Silverton, Royal College of Midwives
Mervi Jokinen, Royal College of Midwives
Sean O’Sullivan, Royal College of Midwives
Ruth Sanders, Midwifery Contributor
Rachel Scanlan,Royal College of Midwives
Oonagh Comerford, Design Council
Mollie Courtenay, Design Council
Haidee Bell, Design Council

With special thanks to the units who enthusiastically participated in this research

Open Access

This work is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. New to Creative Commons? There’s more information online ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)


RCM (2015) Understanding experiences in hospital-based maternity settings. A Better Births Summary. Royal College of Midwives: London

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