Virtual Reality for Labour & Birth
There’s promising new research that shows that virtual reality (VR) can help women in childbirth and in fact it’s been tested and been made available in several hospitals in North America. Various studies have shown how it can help with physiological rehabilitation and pain management, including one in the International Journal of Nursing and Health Science *.
At a doula conference I had the chance to try a VR headset with a program created specifically for labour and delivery by the company appliedVR. They’ve created a calming experience for women and birthing individuals to help them cope with anxiety and labour pain. Their randomized controlled trials showed a 52% reduction in pain and a 31% reduction in anxiety.* While I was actually in a large conference exhibition room, wearing the headset I found myself in a relaxing outdoor environment with trees, a bonfire, a lake and the stars above and with a woman’s voice guiding me and bringing me into a more relaxed state.
If you haven’t tried it, with a VR headset and headphones anywhere you look or move, it’s as if you’re in the environment. It can be used intermittently or for longer periods with breaks, but it’s a totally immersive experience.
Overcoming the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle
While it might not work for everyone, for many it can be a game changer. Imagine being entirely distracted during contractions and instead of finding yourself in a hospital environment, you feel as though you are in a more tranquil place. Often, if you’re just fearful of experiencing pain, that fear can make the perception of pain worse than it actually is because it increases tension in your muscles and in your body. But with virtual reality you start to forget about your worries and your concerns. It can help you let go of any fear you might have, and through letting go of your fear, the tension in your body decreases and the release of tension decreases the perception of pain. It can literally break the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle.
So while there are many different comfort measures and coping techniques to use, it’s always cool to find out about ways newer technologies are being created to help. Methods that aren’t dependent on medications and unnecessary interventions. Regardless of whether or not you wish to use pain medications in labour, it offers something additional that you can try first.
Have you experienced VR in other forms? Would you consider it as an option for labour and childbirth?