Towards the end of last year the British newspaper The Guardian published an article about how virtual reality could help women in labor deal with the excruciating pain associated with childbirth, and possibly even reduce the need for medication and unnecessary Cesarean sections.
While this approach is unusual and unique – according to the article, Erin Martucci of New York was the first ever patient in the world to use virtual reality for pain management in labor in 2016 – it isn’t completely novel. Virtual reality has for some time been used for acute pain management, and as any mother can attest, that’s exactly what childbirth is (painful!).
Ralph Anderson, Martucci’s OBGYN at Orange Regional Medical Center in New York City, is incorporating virtual reality technology in his work with women in labor. Martucci had declined an epidural but been open to Dr. Anderson’s suggestion to use VR to help her manage the pains with a preprogrammed headset where she got to concentrate on watching birds fly over a beach instead of her contractions.
While Doctor Anderson’s headset offer is innovative, it is not unheard of to use the technology for other types of pain management. He is now trialling using the headset with his patients for this alternative pain management approach. Those very scared of pain might not be good candidates as the headset needs to be put on at the right time before the labor pains get too intense and the patient is unable to catch up.
By Mariah Taylor