The effect of colour and design in labour and delivery: A scientific approach

Optics & Laser Technology, Volume 43, Iss 2, Colour in Applications in the Environment, Pgs 420-424, March 2011 - Jane Duncan


This study was part of a broader three year research project at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, “A Study of the Effect of the Visual and Performing Arts in Healthcare”, exploring whether visual and performing arts have any measurable effect on physiological, psychological and biological outcomes of clinical significance on patient recovery, and providing a potential cost saving benefit to the NHS. In this specific study of women in labour, two measurements were identified as having clinical significance for achieving optimal outcomes during labour and delivery: length of labour and frequency of requirement for analgesia. A screen was designed to hide emergency equipment with the joint aim of reducing women's anxieties and (through visual art) acting as a focal point of attention and distraction during labour, thus diminishing requirements for analgesia. Results demonstrated, in the presence of the screen, a statistically significant shortening of the duration of labour by 2.1h with frequency of requests for epidural analgesia 7% lower in the study group than in the control group. The significant clinical outcomes of this research provide the evidence of the value of integrating visual art into the environment of a labour and delivery room, improving the quality of the maternity service and potentially delivering real cost savings benefits to Hospitals.