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Hospitals Now Using VR To Reduce Pain During Childbirth


Combating labor pains with VR technology. 

A new program being conducted at the University Hospital of Whales in Cardiff is using VR technology to treat pain and anxiety during labor. 

“It provides us with an opportunity to do something really different, something innovative, something that’s not being used elsewhere,” said Ms. Hardacre, Head of Midwifery for Cardiff and Vale Health Board, during an interview with BBC. “There’s a great opportunity particularly to use this with women in early labor, to try and help them with some breathing and relaxation and take them out of the moment.”

“It’s genuinely 360 degrees, so when I turn, I’ve got the view that would be behind me or to the side of me,” added Hannah Lelii, a mother who tried the technology before the birth of her first child. “It helps to get me in a state of relaxation.”

A study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology back in January documented the effects of VR technology designed to assist women in early labor who’ve experienced traumatic births in the hopes of providing patients with a non-pharmaceutical pain reduction alternative.  

Hospitals Now Using VR To Reduce Pain During Childbirth 1
Image Credit: BBC

During the randomized pilot study, a group of 20 pregnant women was split into two groups, one with access to VR technology and the one out. Labor and delivery nurses checked each patients pain level (the women were asked to rate their level of pain on a scale of 1-10) every 4 hours during latent labor and every 1 hour during active labor. While both groups had access to standard forms of analgesia, the VR group was asked to immerse themselves in calming 360-degree experiences for at least 15 minutes during labor.

Hospitals Now Using VR To Reduce Pain During Childbirth 2
Image Credit: BBC

77% of patients who used VR reported a noticeable reduction of pain after being immersed in a 360-degree experience, with 77% claiming they would use the technology again. Of the 10 patients included as part of the VR group, only two chose to use IV medication; the control group, meanwhile, included four IV-users.

“This study shows promise that immersive virtual reality use in labor can decrease pain and potentially decrease the use of IV pain medication to allow an improved experience for women during labor,” stated the author in the study. “A larger follow up study is planned. Subjective data from patient surveys suggests a positive effect of VR on the patient experience of pain, particularly during latent labor.”

Featured Image Credit: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology

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