Not your mother's hospital

Today's maturnity care blending comforts
of home with modern medical services

Texas A&M University Relations

Dramatic changes to hospital rooms dedicated to maternity care may have mothers-to-be thinking they've checked in to a plush hotel rather than the unfriendly cold, bland room they're expecting, says a Texas A&M University authority on health care facility design and environmental psychology.

In what appears to be the trend in maternity care design, more and more hospitals are attempting to integrate the amenities and comforts of home with their services, says Mardelle Shepley, a professor of architecture who's researching the subject. The result, she says, is single-room maternity care - a concept that's revolutionized the birthing process, for both patient and provider.

With single-room maternity care, a laboring woman is admitted to one room where all services are provided for her care, Shepley explains. There are two models of single-room care: labor, delivery and recovery (LDR) in one room and labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) in one room.

"All maternity care rooms being built in the United States today incorporate some aspects of these models into their design," Shepley says.

She believes Generation X women will most likely be the first generation of women to exclusively experience this maternity care concept - a far cry from what having a baby was like 20 years ago.

Unlike conventional hospital rooms, which might come across as overbearing with their technology and instruments clearly in view, these rooms attempt to simulate a home-like environment much like a hotel room does, Shepley notes. Complete with curtains, dimming lights, carpeted areas, desks and other accents and accessories, - even Jacuzzis - single-room maternity care units can be converted into a fully functional hospital setting at the appropriate time, she explains.

Contrary to what some physicians believed, the high-tech look and feel of hospital rooms wasn't reassuring to patients; it was intimidating, Shepley notes. She says, these types of rooms often conveyed illness, but that having a child is a celebration of life and single-room maternity units are designed with this in mind.

"Most people who have the opportunity to be involved with this will never go back to anything else," she says.

In transforming hospital into home, Shepley says, these rooms must strike a balance between form and function. As part of her research, Shepley is looking into how these types of rooms can improve upon themselves and find that balance.

For example, in attempting to balance the sanitary needs of a room with the esthetic aspects, Shepley says designers are utilizing synthetics such as a wood-like material that is easier to clean. Carpet can also be used in certain areas of the room in combination with more resilient flooring, she adds.

These rooms, Shepley says, are designed with the family-oriented perspective. This approach to patient care has created a family-centered event where members of the family are welcome and feel welcomed. Rooms even have a place for fathers to sleep, she notes.

What's more, Shepley notes that these models of obstetrical care may be more cost-effective for staffing and less expensive to equip and operate than traditional units.

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Maternity Care