A More Natural Setting for Childbirth

The Aastrika Midwifery Centre in Bangalore, India, takes a new-old approach to labor and delivery.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating the opening of an innovative birthing center in India whose design is intended to promote natural birth and support moms through every stage of labor.

A More Natural Setting for Childbirth

The reception area at Aastrika Midwifery Centre. Copyright Shamanth Patil/ Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Led by Perkins Eastman Associate Principal Tania Phillips in the Mumbai studio, the design team worked with Vasavi Hospital in Bangalore to create the Aastrika Midwifery Centre, a 5,300-sf space that combines the latest technology with traditional comforts so birthing mothers and their babies get the best possible care.

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A brightly colored graphic illustrating the center’s mission fills a wall in the reception area, which leads back into the spacious birthing suites. Alcoves such as the one seen at the end of the corridor are available for mothers and their partners as they move about during labor. Copyright Shamanth Patil/ Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Dr. Janhavi Nilekani founded Aastrika in an effort to take childbirth out of the clinical setting and steer expectant mothers away from surgical Caesarian sections. Perkins Eastman began the design process after digesting multiple studies on best practices in childbirth facilities, including “Innovation in the Design of Child Birth Spaces” by Dr. Neel Shah and “The Birth of a Birth Centre” by Reshma Bachwani, which Aastrika commissioned for the project. “We had valuable discussions about the integration of evidence-based design principles in support of natural birth and the overall philosophy of the project,” Phillips says. “As part of our design process, we participated in a virtual conference—GynZone in Copenhagen—to better understand the latest trends in the design of midwifery models of care. We learned about sensory technology, and we met with Swedish midwives so they could share their personal experiences. They provided us with great insights into the midwifery model of care, labor, water births, and post-partum recovery, which proved to be invaluable.”

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Bright colors in the floor indicate a meandering ambulation path for laboring mothers. The central nursing desk, in addition to snack stations and attractive display cases, are designed with a hospitality feel, less like a clinical healthcare setting. Copyright Shamanth Patil/ Courtesy Perkins Eastman

One of the most prominent applications to come from the research was the introduction of sensory technology, which uses a combination of natural imagery and sounds on a large LED screen that are combined with lighting controls in the room to offer an immersive, calming experience for the laboring mother. The two labor-and-delivery rooms also include large labor-and-birth pools. Aastrika is the first clinic in India to offer these features.

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The LED screen interacts with the labor and delivery room’s lighting to create a calming mood.
Copyright Shamanth Patil/ Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Though Aastrika is equipped for medical interventions should the need arise, the birthing suites shield all the clinical components behind attractive wood paneling. The beds, too, are in wood frames with headboards; along with large, comfortable wing chairs for a mother’s spouse or partner, the atmosphere is intended to feel more home-like than hospital.

The suites are much bigger than industry standards so there’s room for equipment such as birthing balls and a rebozo, or birth rope, to encourage the mother to remain active during labor. The corridors are also wide, and fitted with handrails, to allow for walking and circulation. Additional antepartum and postpartum rooms are also available, in addition to flexible space that allows for future expansion.

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The labor-and-delivery suite includes a kitchenette area, plus a hotel-like bathroom. The birth pool can be curtained off for privacy. Copyright Shamanth Patil/ Courtesy Perkins Eastman

“Aspiring to showcase the best practices in maternity care in the urban private sector, Aastrika Midwifery Centre has been specially designed to support normal childbirth and use midwifery principles,” Dr. Nilekani says. “Together with Perkins Eastman, we carefully thought about every detail of the mother’s experience. We are delighted with the final design.”

“As a mother,” Phillips adds, “designing the Aastrika Midwifery Centre was an extremely rewarding experience.”

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