Lab.Our Ward

Designing novel maternity ward services, products, and spaces that are based on women’s and care providers’ needs
New Venture Fund & Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
India, Nepal, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania
2015 - 2019

Lab.Our Ward is an innovation project that brings maternal health experts together with product, service, and architectural design to rethink the birth experience in low-resource settings. It is a cross-disciplinary exploration to co-create and ignite dialogue around innovations for better intrapartum care experiences in low-resource settings. The project’s goal is to enable a smoother and safer maternal and newborn care journey by focusing on the experience of care.

Addressing care from three pillars – space, services, and products – and recognising a woman’s journey through the facility from her arrival to the perinatal period, the initiative takes the notion of a safe and dignified childbirth experience beyond just statistics and survival.

The Lab.Our ward project has conceived of a model including more than 20 innovative design proposals for improved products, services, and architecture, which support a woman’s journey through the facility. The model has been exhibited as a walk-in maternity ward called Birth in Progress at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen in 2016. The team is continuously working on creating a sustainable strategy to support the piloting and implementation of the innovations.A pregnant woman demonstrating the Lab.Our Ward birth aid at the Women Deliver conference.

Addressing childbirth as a holistic experience

While maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped significantly in the last twenty years, complications during pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of thousands of mothers and newborns each year.

Overcrowding, uncleanliness, and the lack of essential health infrastructure mean that for many women, the experience of birth is neither safe, dignified, nor comfortable. As the number of births taking place in health facilities around the world continues to rise, maternity wards must be adequately prepared to deliver high-quality care to women and newborns everywhere.

A woman’s physical surroundings during childbirth can affect her perception of how easy or difficult it is to give birth. Focusing on a woman’s holistic experience of childbirth, including the infrastructure, products, and services available to her at health facilities, can greatly improve her and her baby’s health outcomes.

Interdisciplinary design approaches 

The setup for this project was unique with the core team comprising of product and industrial designers, service and UX designers, interior designers, and architects as well as midwives and public health professionals.

The work began with an exploration phase that included design and ideation exercises and workshops as well as trend analysis and topic immersion from a design viewpoint. During 2015 and 2016 design research took place in Uganda, Tanzania (Zanzibar), Kenya, Nigeria, and India.

The design team worked in close collaboration with health practitioners and maternal health experts. During the ideation and design phases, the core project team included a trained nurse-midwife who developed and tested the products and services, helping to translate them from low-fidelity concepts to higher-fidelity prototypes. In 2017 the Lab.Our Ward model and solution concepts were published.

Outcomes

Lab.our Ward concepts have been implemented and tested in Odisha, India and in Nawalparasi, Nepal. 

  • In India in 2018, the Lab.our Ward model was taken into pilot stage in two existing maternal health facilities in the State of Odisha.
  • In Nepal in 2019 we collaborated with the Chaudhary Foundation to design a new service delivery model to improve the experience of care and support rebuilding efforts in the earthquake-devastated region.
  • The need for the incorporation of a strong newborn care component was identified during the Lab.Our Ward design project. Our project on newborn health exploration and design focused on finding new approaches to newborn care in low-resource settings in 2017.

Celebrations showing the cutting of a red ribbon to open the Odisha Lab.Our Ward centre in India.

Read the Lab.Our Ward final report.

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