How Virtual Reality Can Help with Childbirth

Finding out you are pregnant can be one of the most exciting moments in your life. Unfortunately, like we all know, that baby has to come out at some point. Although many women can experience incredible moments during labor and delivery, it is only natural to experience some fear or apprehension as you get closer to your due date. 

In fact, researchers have found that about 20% of pregnant women report some fear or anxiety associated with childbirth while another 6-10% describe their fear as crippling. Although epidurals can be used to lower the symptoms of pain, as many of the women in your life can tell you, it doesn’t eliminate all of your pain. You may also have certain contraindications that prevent you from undergoing an epidural procedure. You may also personally choose to limit or avoid pharmaceutical interventions. This heightened fear isn’t only stressful to the mother but it can have negative effects on the entire pregnancy, complications in labor and can lead to difficulties with mother-infant relationships and has even been associated with postpartum depression. 

Now although eliminating all pain associated with childbirth is likely impossible, we do know that the use of stress management techniques like mediation and deep breathing can be helpful both in pregnancy as well as during labor and delivery. In fact, researchers have found that the use of yoga and meditation are not only effective methods for reducing pain and fear perception in labor but they could also increase vaginal delivery rates in the process. Although we can all technically “meditate” at any moment, true meditation can take practice and the best results are most often achieved over time. Meditation can also be challenging especially if you have a wandering mind or you are actively experiencing labor associated pain. So, when researchers began to investigate the use of virtual reality for childbirth, I couldn’t help but share. 

Earlier this year, researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial with 42 laboring women to evaluate the effectiveness of immersive virtual reality (VR) as a coping tool and pain reliever during labor. Of the 42 women in the study, half were allocated to a VR intervention while the other half were part of the control group. Among the women in the VR group, researchers observed a higher level of patient satisfaction and lower pain score when using VR early in labor. This was done prior to epidural procedures and was found to be an important adjuvant tool that could be used in a variety of labor and delivery settings. 
Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated three-dimensional, computer generated experience that allows the user to both explore and interact with their environment. Some VR systems, like Healium, can sync with your biometric trackers including your apple watch, fitbit and others. Healium can also be combined with EEG headbands that help train your brain with neurofeedback. The Brainlink wearable device allows you to see your brainwaves in near-real-time displayed inside your Healium virtual reality experience. Healium also offers an app based version that was specifically designed to allow you to access your VR experience from anywhere without the need for a virtual reality headset. This is a great option especially if you are experiencing anxiety and fear during doctor visits or when you are on the go. Tapping into your VR experience while you wait for your doctor’s visit, is a great way to use up that down time while you wait for your doctor.

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...