Physiological design embraces ergonomic and evidence based design principles and applies them to the physiological dynamic of labour and birth to optimise the experience of mothers and midwives.
Ergonomics is an applied science that takes into account the relationship between people and the products that they use to maximise productivity and increase safety & comfort.
Evidence-Based Design relies on the use of quantitative and qualitative research to design products that enhance the quality of care and positively affect the experience of the users.
Simply put – form follows function.
There’s a lot of focus on immersion of mothers in water during labour.
The very notion of describing this as immersion in water is tremendously limiting!
Immersion in water is but a small part of the potential benefit that a simple pool of water offers to women in labour.
Birth pools designed and used for immersion in water have elaborately moulded interiors that can be described as an “obstetric chair in a bath”.
Mothers are positioned in the classic lying back with legs wide-open position but happen to be immersed in water.
These birth pools typically have very little floor space or room to move.
A water birth pool should have features and design elements that support the mother as she changes position rather than dictate the position she is in.
On land women have to contend with the force of gravity that limits their ability to assume upright postures especially as labour progresses and it becomes too difficult to maintain these positions for long.
The buoyancy of water supports the mother allowing her to explore the full range of upright positions with ease and move with renewed energy in ways that were not possible on land.
Mothers experience maximum advantage of the benefits that water offers to help increase the likelihood of a physiological labour and natural birth.
Other important issues that must be considered in the design process are how mothers will get in and out of the pool and be evacuated in case of an emergency.
One of the most important, basic and misunderstood aspects of water birth pool design is the simple matter of mothers entering and leaving the birth pool.
There are important practical realities relating to Health and Safety regulations, good practice and plain common sense that must be adhered to.
Another critical issue that needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of Health & Safety regulations is emergency evacuation.
The physical technique of removing a collapsed woman from the water is potentially hazardous and poses a risk of injury to the mother and midwife.
Water birth pools must offer midwives safe and practical options for emergency evacuations and ideally be portable hoist compatible.
Physiological design principles combined with an understanding of the complex biomechanics of labour and birth can be used to create water birth pools that are safe and fully serve the needs of mothers and midwives.