Childbirth hurts. It’s a simple fact of life that we can never change or escape, many expectant mothers have a lot of anxiety about exactly how painful it will be. And while the payoff is most certainly worth the suffering, it certainly would be nice if, maybe, women didn’t have to experience so much pain during labor. Of course, there are medications to address some of the discomfort, but for many reasons many women are reluctant to rely on such things. Thankfully, there is an alternative option coming onto the scene that many skeptics will likely scoff at, and that’s virtual reality.
Contrary to popular opinion, virtual reality is not just the next level of gaming. It has a vast variety of other applications, including medical. You may be wondering how strapping on a pair of goggles could possibly make childbirth less painful, but there’s a great deal of merit to mind over matter when it comes to any kind of pain, including that of childbirth.
You’ve likely experienced two types of injuries in your life. The ones you immediately notice and feel, and the ones you seemingly accrue from nowhere, and you never even noticed the bruise or the cut until someone pointed it out to you. But the injury itself didn’t change. A cut is a cut, and a bruise is a bruise. But an injury you pay more attention to is more painful than one that you don’t really notice or successfully ignore. The same is true for all types of pain. If you can focus on something else besides the pain, it actually hurts a lot less. It’s an aspect of psychology that has been long proven. Our pain is connected to our attention.
Of course, it’s hard to focus on anything but the pain when you’re in a hospital room and surrounded by doctors and nurses. The key to focusing on something else is being in a different environment, and that’s where virtual reality comes in. One of the most amazing aspects of virtual reality is that it can take you pretty much anywhere that can be imagined. Sandy beaches, rolling hills, a clear lake, another planet, you name it. Whatever your most relaxing terrain is, virtual reality will take you there.
In fact, this method has already been used a few times already. During an experimental phase to test the effectiveness of this concept, expecting mothers that refused epidural were asked to try a virtual reality headset instead. Transported to a relaxing evening on a beach with a campfire and a calming waterfall in the background, a soothing voice helped instruct you to breathe as you watched birds in the sky or the waves roll across the sand.
It certainly sounds a lot nicer than a sterile white hospital room, that’s for sure. But it’s not just hypothesis; the results speak for themselves. On average, the women that made use of the virtual reality headset during childbirth experienced an 82% reduction in pain, and they were able to relax for the entirety of the process much more easily.
The science speaks for itself. Being distracted from pain makes it far more tolerable and less acute. And since you can’t really go find a nice white beach to give birth on, the next best thing is virtual reality, which will let you experience it all the same. Less stress for mom means less stress for baby and everyone can experience this beautiful time a little easier.
Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"