Virtual reality can distract from very real pain.
VR headsets are being offered to moms-to-be during labor to help distract from the painful experience.
The immersive entertainment is “being used during medical procedures and has been shown to be a valid, non-pharmacologic method to treat pain and anxiety,” according to a report published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in January.
“This study shows promise that immersive virtual reality use in labor can decrease pain and potentially decrease the use of IV pain medication to allow an improved experience for women during labor,” the study authors write.
One trial for the unorthodox epidural alternative is taking place at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. The institution is offering VR headsets to women in early labor who have had traumatic births, the BBC reports.
“I’m submerged in a herd of buffaloes, and there’s one right there,” pregnant participant Hannah Lelii tells the BBC in a video where she’s wearing the headset. “The breathing techniques, and where you’re based [in the VR] — a beach scene or a water scene — they aim to relax you.”
Tech developers tell the BBC that there have been some 900 clinical trials regarding pain and anxiety reduction through virtual reality.
Participants in a study at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles also found that VR helped with labor pains.
“The pain was really bad. At that point, I was willing to do anything,” participant Aviva Lahmany, 26, tells the Wall Street Journal of her labor. But the VR “takes you out of that hospital room,” she says. “I was able to actually breathe. It really helped center me and calm me.”
The Cedars-Sinai study used a VR machine made by AppliedVR, and worked with a doula to develop its labor and delivery program for the study, WSJ reports.
VR is also now used to record porn, visit black holes, help people be more empathetic and less scared of heights. Who needs reality, anyway?