Illawarra mothers will welcome their new bubs into the world in a brand new birthing unit at Wollongong Hospital from next week.
The $2.2 million birthing unit redevelopment was unveiled on Friday after six months of construction and is now a modern and more functional space for pregnant mothers and their families.
The redevelopment includes seven birthing suites, three with baths, three assessment rooms as well as a reception area and quiet space with kitchenette for families.
Operations manager for maternity services Barbra Atkins said the unit was now aesthetically pleasing, calm and welcoming for women.
"We have added purpose-built baths, which are deep, and allow a woman to immerse herself in and give birth in," she said.
"The suits are equipped with double showers and more birthing props to allow women to have more of a choice and participation during the labour.
"If we can support women in an environment that is conducive to them feeling comfortable then we have better outcomes for natural births."
Ms Atkins said the medical equipment, such as oxygen or resuscitators, was hidden behind cabinets and doors in an attempt to make mothers feel more comfortable when they enter the birthing suite.
"We still need the equipment for safety, but if it is out of the way then when a mother comes into the room she does not feel the room is threatening to her.
"If the room is welcoming and aesthetically pleasing then that has positive influence on the endorphins she produces as part of labour, which she uses as pain relief while progressing through natural labour."
Ms Atkins said the baths can quickly fill or drain if there is an emergency and the water temperature is maintained through constant heating.
She said the baths were suitable for women who were categorised for low-risk birth, with the other suites, without baths, were designed for more high-risk patients who may need intervention.
We are so excited that women in our community have access to a warm and inviting facility full of amazing equipment that was not there before.Giselle Coromandel
Every room has a resuscitation trolley which is recessed into a cabinet, and the props include birthing balls, peanut balls, mats, beanbags and birthing stools.
"The hospital has come right up to the standard and expectation of the community."
Advocacy groups including Better Births Illawarra, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the Illawarra Baby and Child Loss Support Group, research and mothers who have previously given birth were all consulted during the design phase.
Giselle Coromandel, consumer representative and president of Better Births Illawarra was thrilled to see the redevelopment and the result of her group's hard work.
"We are so excited that women in our community have access to a warm and inviting facility full of amazing equipment that was not there before," she said.
"We thought it was important to have access to modern equipment such as birth baths, props and having a more inviting space with medical equipment concealed.
"We have advocated fairly relentlessly for an upgrade and funding for the birth unit.
"We have maintained a really collaborative process with the local health district and it has been rewarding to be heard and listened to."
Midwifery manager of the birthing Karen Atkin said the upgrade had been a "long time coming" with the final redevelopment turning out "better than expected".
"I can't wait to move in," she said. "I was here when we moved into the site originally and we thought it was fantastic then.
"The biggest change in midwifery care is the inclusiveness and empowering women to be informed as well as to have a voice to choose their birth experience.
"We now encourage women to be more active and be upright during birth.
"I'm really excited to see the women come in and see this space."
Ms Atkin said some of the feedback that had been taken on board was moving the suite used for bereavement to the front of the unit so mothers and family could easily leave the unit rather than having to walk past other birthing rooms.
It has been 20 years since the unit was last refurbished and has since seen more than 40,000 babies born.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District board chair Professor Denis King said the upgrade was necessary as the old unit was old and not fit for modern birthing practices and experiences for mothers and their babies.
"There is a marriage between what is in the best interests of the mother and the baby, together with the technology that is now taken as standard," he said.
"The upgrade has brought the unit up to contemporary practices and experiences birthing should be."
The temporary unit is being moved over coming days with the first mother expected in the suite sometime next week.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.
Subscribe to our newsletters