The relationship between birth unit design and safe, satisfying birth: Developing a hypothetical model

Maralyn Foureur, Deborah Davis, Jennifer Fenwick, Nicky Leap, Rick Iedema, Ian Forbes, Caroline S.E. Homer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances in cross-disciplinary studies linking architecture and neuroscience have revealed that much of the built environment for health-care delivery may actually impair rather than improve health outcomes by disrupting effective communication and increasing patient and staff stress. This is also true for maternity care provision, where it is suggested that the design of the environment can also impact on the experiences and outcomes for birthing women.The aim of this paper is to describe the development of a conceptual model based on literature and understandings of design, communication, stress and model of care. The model explores potential relationships among a set of key variables that need to be considered by researchers wishing to determine the characteristics of optimal birth environments in relation to birth outcomes for women and infants. The conceptual model hypothesises that safe satisfying birth is reliant on the level of stress experienced by a woman and the staff around her, stress influences the quality of communication with women and between staff, and this process is mediated by the design of the birth unit and model of care.The conceptual model is offered as a starting point for researchers who have an appreciation of the complexity of birth and the ability to bring together colleagues from a range of disciplines to explore the pre-requisites for safe and effective maternity care in new ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-525
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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