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Cork Birthing Suite transformed


Pictured in the new birthing suite are (l to r): Olga O’Brien, Midwife; Michelle Gillick, Midwife; Martina Dillon, Clinical Midwife Manager 2; Michelle Hennessy (seated), Midwife; Siobhan Kennedy; Healthcare Assistant; Denise Malone, Clinical Midwife Manager.

A determined and dedicated team of midwives and their colleagues in Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) have transformed the birthing suite rooms and the experiences of the expectant mums using them.

The project was part of a wider initiative called the CUMH Ideas Forum, which aimed to generate and implement ideas among staff on how to improve the experiences of patients and staff. It was led out by Dr Noirin Russell and supported by Prof John R. Higgins, Clinical Director.

The ‘Birthing Suite Working Group’ was formed as an action group in September 2018. Its aim was to transform the birthing rooms into flexible, adaptable and positive spaces to improve patient experience by creating a safe, satisfying birth space in which women are more likely to feel secure and relaxed during labour and childbirth.

They were a multidisciplinary group chaired by Denise Malone, A/Midwifery Manager CMM2 in QPS, working with Emma Cummins, CMM2, Labour Ward; Martina Dillon, CMM 2 in Midwife-Led Care; Dr Keelin O’Donoghue, Obstetrician; and a number of midwives who work on the birthing suite including Mags Higgins, Olga O’Brien, Ger O’Mahony, and Orla Baldwin. The project was rubberstamped by the CUMH Executive Management Committee (EMC) and assigned a project chair - CUMH Business Manager Miriam Lyon - in April 2019. 

“It was decided to pilot one birthing room initially. This was to be a ‘soft focus’ room with a dual purpose of facilitating birth for low-risk pregnancies as well as being the room suitable for pregnancy loss. In addition, we sought to revamp the corridor leading to the birthing suite itself,” explained Denise.

“We met Thursday mornings and set up a WhatsApp group to share ideas and updates. We sought many opinions including those from a clinical lead who had previously visited all birthing units in Ireland as well as a number of birth centres internationally.”

Among the changes made were the relocation of medical gases from a central position in the mural to a side wall, moving of wall based signage containing medicalised language from the mother’s eyeline, and the addition of frosted glass to the door for privacy.  A large mural featuring a woodland theme was also added.    The mural was selected by birthing suite staff based on a shortlist of three photos.

The group also installed mood lighting in the room, both coloured and dimmable, bought a new birth mat and bean bag for adoption of different positions in labour, installed a blackout blind to create a darker environment to promote oxytocin release, put in soft bedding bedspread and provided a recliner chair for birth partners to sleep in the event of a long labour

“As a group, this project has had a 12-month time span from formation, presentation and actioning the project. This process has required regular liaising with midwifery management and input from the local hospital management. It remains an ongoing project. We have gained and lost some members along the way, there has even been a baby born within the time span of our group.   The process of change has proved enlightening and challenging but we remain committed to keeping the central focus as the mothers and babies that use our Birthing Suite,” said Denise.