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Virtual reality being tested as alternative to pain meds for women in labor


Technology can take expectant mothers “out of the moment,” midwife says.

Women delivering babies in Wales are being given virtual-reality headsets to help them get through labor.

To help take mothers’ minds off the pain of labor, the experimental procedure gives them a virtual walk through a crowd of penguins on the beach, for example.

University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff is carrying out a trial that could be rolled out across Wales, if successful, the BBC reported.

The technology offers an alternative to pharmacological pain management, said Suzanne Hardacre, head of midwifery for Cardiff and Vale health board.

“It provides us with an opportunity to do something really different, something innovative, something that’s not being used elsewhere,” Hardacre said. “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.”

She said it also had the potential to be used with women who previously had traumatic birth experiences. It was found to be best used during the early stages of labor, when women are more in control.

“For things like early labor at the moment we can offer water, breathing and relaxation,” Hardacre said. “Virtual reality just brings another dimension to that.”

Hannah Lelii, who tested the kit ahead of the birth of her first baby this month, said, “It helps to get me in a state of relaxation.”

Glenn Hapgood, cofounder of Rescape, which developed the technology and charges about £4,000 per headset per year, said VR has “moved slowly out of the gaming arena and now into therapies.”

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