The goal of the Lab.our Ward Project is to design labour ward innovations based around women's and care providers' needs and to support a safer birth experience for every woman and newborn. The project is run by M4ID and initiated by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The process is carried out as a collaboration between architecture, service design and product design. Helena Sandman put together the architecture team of interior designer Kanika Frings and architecture students Petter Eklund and Mariana Rantanen.

The spatial design of the labour ward facilitates the journey of the woman in labour, and her companion, through admission to discharge. In many contemporary labour wards there is limited privacy and little space for a companion to accompany the woman and support her through her labour. The research done in this project shows that the organisation of the labour ward is frequently disjointed and there is often no clear route to move through the facility.

Labour ward architecture could make it easier for women to understand the stage of labour in which they are, to understand where they will go to next and for staff to more readily manage situations as they arise. The spaces on display here are organised to achieve a balance between safety and privacy.

The team has come up with a modular design which can be constructed for different needs and in different sizes. This includes a model of a ward designed for approximately 300 births a month. It includes a cesarean theatre and a ward for approximately 100 births/month. Moreover, there is a ward which can be used as an addition to an existing facility, which is designed for approximately 500 births/month.

In the autumn 2017 the Lab.our Ward project continues in Balasore, Odisha, India. Two existing facilities will be updated with design solutions aiming at an improved situation for the mothers and babies.

In the main hospital in Balasore, Odisha, India the facility conducts 30 births/day out of which approximately half are cesarean deliveries. After a normal birth the mother stays only 48 hours in the hospital, but after a cesarean section she is supposed to stay for a week. There are only 70 beds in the facility, whereas the need would be more than double. The facility has 3 nurses / shift and one cleaner. There are major challenges with space, hygiene and infection control.

Helena Sandman from Ukumbi and three designers from M4ID are trying to meet the challenges with cost-effective design solutions that are easy to implement. The aim is to find solutions that can benefit also other facilities with similar challenges both in India and elsewhere.

All material produced in the project is Open Source.