How can we create more positive experiences for women in labor?
About one in three women experience trauma during birth
Women attributed their traumatic childbirth experience primarily to lack of control and autonomy, poor communication, and a lack of emotional support.
In a study of over 2,000 women who described their labors as traumatic, many women, “believe[d] that in many cases, their trauma could have been reduced or prevented by better communication and support by their caregiver or if they themselves had asked for or refused interventions” (Hollander).
To mitigate trauma, patient care must improve
If the healthcare provider / mother relationship improves, it will decrease trauma in all areas of labor and delivery. This relationship has the power to significantly reduce trauma and pain, improve recovery rates, and empower women during childbirth (Green).
Andrea went into labor and began having six minute long contractions when average contractions are about one minute long.
The anesthesiologist explained how to receive more pain relief from the epidural, but because Andrea was in the middle of a long contraction she didn’t understand what he was saying. She could have received more pain relief from the epidural.
It’s difficult to communicate while in pain. The environment and lighting can communicate for the woman.
Because it’s difficult to communicate while in pain, there needs to be a way to alert doctors when to communicate with a patient. Changes in lighting can unobtrusively notify healthcare providers without adding excessive hospital alarms.
The aesthetic nature of the delivery room can change the need for interventions (Wrønding) and positively impact both hospital staff and patients (Ulrich).
Lighting has the capacity to instantly impact a person’s emotions, instantly making a person more alert or reverent (Lin). Hospital staff needs to be able instantly attune to the mood of the room.
Dim, warm lighting stimulates melatonin creation, a relaxing hormone. Blue-white light stimulates serotonin, causing greater alertness (Lin).
The lighting dims and warms during a contraction and brightens to a blue white light outside of contractions. The environment will notify healthcare workers of the patient’s current state.
How it will work
90% of women are connected to an EKG machine that monitors the baby’s heart rate and mother's contractions. The lighting connects via bluetooth to the EKG machine.
Qualitative research interviews
I labored for over 24 hours and there were several times when nurses would want to do a vaginal exam or some other checkup and I would think, “Could you just give me one second?" I felt like I couldn't catch a break. This dimmed lighting would remind everyone to be more respectful and reverent.
I felt forced into having an episiotomy by my doctor. I wasn’t progressing and the situation was so overwhelming that I didn’t have time to make any informed decisions. I think anything in the birth room that would calm my husband and I along with the nurses would have been helpful.
One nurse walked in and tried to talk to Annie, then she looked up at the monitor and said, ‘Oh, you’re having a contraction.’ The doctors and nurses we dealt with seemed desensitized to peoples’ pain. I wish we had this lighting for my wife’s labor to remind them to be patient with us.
If a healthcare provider enters a dimly lit room, they will know to wait for the lights to slowly brighten before communicating with the mother or performing any procedures. A brightly lit room will notify them that the mother is in between contractions. This lighting will facilitate more properly timed communication and turn the attention to the woman in labor.
Green, Josephine M. and Baston, Helen A. “Feeling in control during labor: concepts, correlates, and consequences.” US National Library of Medicine. 30 December 2003. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14992154/
Hollander et al. “Preventing traumatic childbirth experiences: 2192 women’s perceptions and views.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. 29 May 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509770/
Lin et al. “Effect of intensity of short-wavelength light on electroencephalogram and subjective alertness.” Sage Journals. 2 September 2019. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1477153519872801
Ulrich et al. “The Role of the Physical Environment in the Hospital of the 21st Century: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity.” Health Design. September 2004. https://www.healthdesign.org/system/files/Ulrich_Role%20of%20Physical_2004.pdf
Wrønding et al. “The aesthetic nature of the birthing room environment may alter the need for obstetrical interventions.” Nature. 22 January 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-36416-x