Could virtual reality ease the pain of childbirth?

August 13th, 2019

Women in Wales are being given access to virtual reality headsets as part of a trial to determine the effects of VR on pain management during labour. 

University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff is currently trialling a programme, which involves offering expectant mothers the chance to use a VR headset. The aim is to see if VR can help to reduce pain levels during labour and make the process less stressful and more tolerable.

Hannah Lelii was one of those offered the opportunity to try the headset before she gave birth. She said that it was similar to a simulator, which provided 360-degree views of scenes and environments that were supposed to be more relaxing than the hospital room. Ms Lelii revealed that using the headset did make her feel more relaxed, and she described herself as a “massive fan.” 

For Hannah, like many other women, having a choice about pain relief was important, and she believes that this could be a really effective and popular option for pregnant women moving forward. Echoing Hannah’s sentiments, midwife Suzanne Hardacre suggested that VR could be offered as an alternative form of pain control, which might be more appealing to those keen to avoid more intensive techniques and treatments. 

Ms Hardacre said that the trial is hugely exciting for the team, as it offers the chance to try an approach that is different to anything currently used in hospitals across England and Wales. The trial gives midwives and expectant mothers an opportunity to gauge how effective VR is, and to see if this is a concept that could benefit those going into labour in the coming months and years. 

The team suggests that VR can be particularly useful during the early stages of labour to help relaxation, facilitate calm and enable women to focus on something else other than the pain of strengthening contractions. It’s very common to experience anxiety when giving birth, especially for the first time or following a traumatic birth, and researchers hope that VR could make a positive difference. 

The trial at the University Hospital of Wales is now underway, and experts are hoping to start collecting data and feedback from those who have participated in the scheme in the near future. If the trial is successful, this is a programme that could be rolled out across the country.

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