Lateef Ademola Lawal

Spaces for improvement in childbirth recovery care: A case study of postnatal room designs in hospitals.

Hospitals are being criticised for their inadequacies in design to meet the purposes they are designed for. Several user groups– patients, staff, visitors, and particularly women, who may not be unwell, but only use hospitals to give birth, are affected by the hospital architecture. Childbirth related design research has focused only on the labour and birth experiences of women where needs differ from those of the postnatal phase such as rest and sleep. However, it has been shown that hospital postnatal environments are unsupportive, less conducive and potentially not restorative for rest and sleep, which are crucial for the physical restoration and wellbeing of women. Do hospital postnatal spaces, where women recover after the birth, need a total redefinition for the optimum recovery experience and wellbeing given that the built environment is less restorative when compared to the natural environment? If this is the case, what should be the nature of spaces that fully support the recovery experiences and wellbeing of women after giving birth in unfamiliar hospital environments.

This research explores the creation of an evidence-based set of guidelines for a restorative hospital environment for women after childbirth.

The research is multidisciplinary, drawing concepts from the natural environment, childbirth theory and studies, and the field of evidence based-design. It employs exploratory sequential mixed methods in a three-phase approach to answer the overarching question: How can hospital postnatal environments provide for a restorative and conducive setting in busy urban hospitals?

Using perceptions of two user groups, women who have given birth and the medical staff who care for them, questionnaires focused on the physical design factors for postnatal environments were used to survey the opinions of the respondents. These were supplemented with focus group interviews to validate findings.

The findings will be supportive of the physical, emotional, physiological and psychological health and well being of women while using hospitals as transition spaces prior to home. This research could guide policy makers in implementing a new direction and vision for the planning of provision of quality postnatal care with corresponding optimum guidelines for a restorative postnatal hospital environment. The findings are intended to be applicable in three areas: changing how the existing buildings are used, upgrading existing postnatal spaces, and construction of completely new postnatal units.


Professor Robert Vale and Dr Maibritt Pedersen Zari