Virtual Reality for Pain Reduction in Childbirth

Virtual Reality for pain reduction in childbrith
If you’re expecting, you’ve probably looked into various non-invasive ways to reduce pain in labour. Before exploring other options, chances are you probably want to try non-pharmacological methods first. However, even if you plan on having an epidural ahead of time, there is a period of time you will most likely go through the contractions of labour and need to use additional comfort measures until it is administered. Whatever your situation, you have various options like hydrotherapy, the use of of a birth tub or shower, or hypnotherapy, massage, acupressure, rebozo, hot or cold packs among others. You may also be wondering about the options your hospital or birth centre provides. 
 
What if I told you there was an additional option, one that studies have shown can significantly reduce pain, would you try it? 
If you’re expecting, you’ve probably looked into various non-invasive ways to reduce pain in labour. Before exploring other options, chances are you probably want to try non-pharmacological methods first. However, even if you plan on having an epidural ahead of time, there is a period of time you will most likely go through the contractions of labour and need to use additional comfort measures until it is administered. Whatever your situation, you have various options like hydrotherapy, the use of of a birth tub or shower, or hypnotherapy, massage, acupressure, rebozo, hot or cold packs among others. You may also be wondering about the options your hospital or birth centre provides. 
 
What if I told you there was an additional option, one that studies have shown can significantly reduce pain, would you try it? 
 
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. 
 
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 or not, 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?
Source: *International Journal of Nursing and Health Science 2017; 4(4): 46-50 http://www.openscienceonline.com/journal/ijnhs ISSN: 2381-4861 (Print); ISSN: 2381-4888 (Online) The Effect of Virtual Reality on Pain in Primiparity Women
 Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321600779_The_Effect_of_Virtual_Reality_on_Pain_in_Primiparity_Women
*https://appliedvr.io/research/
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