Having a baby

Understanding and improving the 'pregnancy experience'

About the project

Title: Pregnancy to Early Years
Type of work: Service design (LiveWork research project for Department of Health)
Date: June 2015 – October 2015
Extent of the project: 4-5 months

Driven by a wish to adopt a user needs approach to major life transitions as the basis for service improvement, the digital team at the Department of Health embarked on a research project to look at the experiences of women and their partners who are having a baby. The project seeked to better understand the maternity journey through the experiences of these women and families as well as the health professionals who support them. By taking a broad view of how people interact with health and government services at this significant life transition point, we were looking to identify opportunities for improving their experience through better use of digital technology.

I worked on this project as part of a team at LiveWork over the summer 2015. For further reading, visit the blog of the digital team at the Department of Health.

The design

Inspired by the research and needs of the people we met, we came up with 12 concepts of how to support families during pregnancy and their first few weeks with the newborn. Out of these, three were identified as having potential, and three (plus an extra) were prototyped. Linking back to the project's particular focus on digital, the prototypes were digital sketches and paper prototypes of mostly online tools that we presented back to some of the families and health professionals in order to collect their feedback. The research and insights themselves were also one of the deliverables; these were collated and shared with the Department of Health and GDS.

the 12 refined concepts

The 12 refined concepts that were presented to our project Steering Group.

the 12 concepts and selection the four prototypes

These four concepts were prototyped to elicit feedback from families and health professionals on their usefulness and functionality.

Pregnancy overview prototype

Part of the 'pregnancy overview' prototype, showing the digital version's different functions and pages.

Paper prototype

The 'pregnancy overview' paper prototype that we showed to families and health professionals.

Prototype ranking scores

We asked the families and health professionals to rate the usefulness of the prototypes from 1 to 5 (1 being not useful), and asked them if they could see themselves using it, and why (not). This was presented back to the Department of Health along with key feedback on each prototype.

Shareable document

The shareable research document containing the key conclusions, the insights as well as typed up interview notes / summaries of each discussion with families and health professionals. If wishing to go more in depth, the raw video and audio material were also available.

Insight 6: Information

An example of one of the insights. We discovered and presented five insights from health professionals, and nine insights from families. You can flick through all the collated insights here.

Insight 9: Trust

Another example of one of the insights. You can flick through all the collated insights here.

A glimpse of the process

In the first phase of our research we carried out interviews with 9 health professionals and 11 families across the country. As part of these interviews, we asked families to try to map their 'having a baby experience'. Following the interviews we identified the high-level needs of mothers and families throughout the pregnancy into the first few weeks of their baby’s life. We also mapped which products and services are already available, and what people’s experiences were of these. We ran a number of design workshops to develop tools and models that would help us in our ideation and prototyping, e.g. an (enourmous) information map. Using all of these tools, 21 potential concepts for prototyping were created, and we whittled these down to 12 clearer, more promising concepts.

Visiting health professionals

We started out by visiting 9 midwives and health visitors across the country. This gave us insight into what it is like to be the one supporting women and families who are having a baby, and what interactions take place when. It also helped us better understand what to look for, and which questions to ask.

Visiting families

We visited 11 women and families who were either pregnant or had just had their baby. The questions we were seeking an answer to was: 'What is the experience for families interacting with the health system and government as a whole, before, during and after their child's birth?' and 'what do they need and value during this life-changing experience?'

Pregnancy lifecycle / journey Mapping experiences

To help answer our questions, we asked families (and professionals) to try to map their 'having a baby experience' on a lifecycle / journey map that we had prepared for each interview.

Lifecycle analysis

When looking at all of these personal journeys, it is clear that having a baby is a highly individual experience. That being said, some patterns did emerge.

Lifecycle mapping

We mapped what we heard on this journey map; from emotional intensity to the number of interactions with midwives and health visitor(s), but also when information is given and how relevant it is or feels. There is no absolute truth when it comes to the experience of having a baby; these maps are best understood as general trends, or ways of thinking about this life transition.

Exploring physical information

It soon became apparent that information plays a crucial role in all of this. We explored what information people are given, how they find and navigate the different sources of information (formal as well as informal), how consistent and trusted the information is, etc. This being physical (such as the Bounty pack)...

Exploring digital information

...or digital, such as apps. We heard stories, such as how a 'dad info pack' is being passed on from dad to dad within a company, and discussed what apps and websites they were using, and which ones they were avoiding.

Information mapping

With the help of the Department of Health, we produced an enormous information map (literally, 2 meters long), a variation on the customer journey mapping we did during the interviews.

Information mapping

The information map helped us to establish an ‘official’ view of what information is shared and when, which we could then compare to the experience of our research participants to identify opportunities for improvement. To see the digital version click here.

Two-by-two matrix

Another thing we found is that families can be recognised by the way in which they associate with pregnancy. For example, some are driven by a medical experience in the past, and focus on the practical aspects (that is not to say that they're materialistic), whilst others are fueled by a desire to create the perfect future family environment.

Ideation workshop

Based on the 'types' of people or ways of associating with pregnancy, we merged some of the people we'd met into personas as a tool for the ideation workshop to come.

Ideation workshop

Inspired by the research and using tools such as the information map to inform the ideas, we held an ideation workshop at the Department of Health. Using crazy eights, we came up with 21 concepts that potentially could be prototyped.

Refining the concepts

The 21 concepts from the workshop at Department of Health were then refined, merged, expanded and selected until there were only 12 concepts left. We worked these up to a stage where we could present them to our project Steering Group.