Health Turning breech birth pain on its head

Turning breech birth pain on its head

turnING breech birth pain on its head

Pregnancy can be an exciting time – but it can be scary if things don’t go to plan.

What if we could use virtual reality to literally escape some of its more painful aspects – without anaesthetic?

Monash University researchers are helping women do just that.

In a world first, the university tested immersive technology – game-like experiences delivered via virtual reality goggles – to reduce anxiety and pain associated with a common breech birth treatment.

Currently performed without anaesthetic, the procedure involves an obstetrician manually repositioning the baby prior labour so it can move through the birth canal.

Around 50 women taking part in the trial wore virtual reality goggles for an immersive experience showing lanterns launching into the sky. They were asked to click on the headset to light each one before it burst.

It sounds almost too simple to be true but the university’s Vinayak Smith says previous studies in other settings have showed immersive technology can reduce pain by up to 25 per cent.

“VR is said to work in two ways to reduce pain – through distraction where pain impulses are
blocked or slowed from entering the brain, and on a neurobiological level by reducing the
perception of pain experienced by the brain,” Dr Smith says.

The technique was well received by participants in the Monash study, who believed it should be available to all expecting women and said they would recommend it to their friends.

Success of the trial paves the way for use of virtual reality in other areas of obstetrics such as early labour.

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