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Featured Article:

Designing Maternity Care for Millennial Moms

Bonny Slater, Senior Interior Designer, Health & Wellness at Gensler

Millennials are the new moms. Time is flying, and in a few years all new mothers will be Millennials (or Gen Y). This generation is information-centric, so with limitless access to information many mothers-to-be obsess over every detail of impending motherhood, including finding the perfect place to give birth.

About 99% of women in the U.S. currently give birth in hospitals, but the number opting to deliver at home or in birth centers is rapidly increasing in reaction to negative experiences, high rates of unnecessary medical interventions, lack of control, and high costs of delivering in a hospital.

Consumer-driven healthcare is a new concept for most, but maternity services have been competing for market share for years. Unlike emergent healthcare needs, most expectant parents have time to shop their options, tour hospitals, and choose a facility. So what do millennial mothers want? Previous generations valued a trusting relationship with their doctor above all else, but millennials tend to perceive competing doctors as providing equally high-quality clinical care - so hospitals need to distinguish themselves in other ways.

The Children's Health Fetal Center. Image © Slyworks Photography

Retail-Like Options
Millennial mothers create their own birth plans and seek out providers and hospitals that will allow them to give birth on their terms. This might mean accommodating natural birth options such as midwife deliveries, doulas, acupuncture, water births, and offering tools such as birthing balls or ropes. It could also mean a lactation support gift shop or newborn photography services.

Home-like Control
At a stressful time when it feels like you have no control over your body, it’s important to feel you have control over your environment. Simple things like being able to adjust lighting or play your own music during labor and delivery make all the difference. After delivery, on-demand room service and a family kitchenette allow you to eat on your own schedule, and ample space for visitors (with 24/7 access) lets you control who you see and when.

Hospitality-like Service
A hospital can be absolutely beautiful, but service is what overwhelmingly makes an experience good or bad. Friendly, attentive nurses are perhaps the most important quality. Quick service without any unnecessary waiting (especially for an epidural) is also essential. Complimentary massages, quality toiletries, and personal refrigerators are nice touches that patients will tell their friends about.

Healthy Environment
This is the area with perhaps the most unrealized marketing potential. Millennial moms expect that anything coming near their baby is BPA, PVC, VOC and lead-free. Baby products are one consumer area where the precautionary principle (avoidance of substances known or suspected of human or environmental harm) is practiced and transparency in ingredients is expected. However, the vast majority of hospitals still finish maternity units with vinyl flooring, wall covering, and even ceiling tiles. A healthier hospital environment is a great way for a hospital to distinguish themselves from the competition.

Hospitals cannot afford to lose their maternity patients, but not because it’s a huge profit center. Maternity care is a major marketing tool for hospitals.

Women tend to make a family’s healthcare decisions, and when she or her family needs future care she’ll likely return to the hospital where she gave birth – if she had a good experience.

The Children's Health Fetal Center Lobby. Image © Slyworks Photography

Bonny's experience covers a range of healthcare projects, including the design of academic medical centers, community clinics, and foreign hospitals. Contact her at Bonny_Slater@gensler.com.

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