UK hospital uses VR to prepare future parents for childbirth

New VR headsets at Hull Women and Children's Hospital are set to help future parents prepare for the birth of their children.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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A UK hospital is giving parents-to-be a more immersive look at what introducing labor and birth may entail.

The Hull Women and Children's Hospital project allows future parents to virtually see the experience of a woman using a birthing pool and ‘join’ an operating theatre where a patient is undergoing a caesarean section.

“The [virtual reality] headsets mean people feel like they are in the room, seeing the facilities all around them and watching how midwives interact with mothers and partners during labour,” Janet Cairns, head of midwifery at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

Prospective parents were reportedly able to road-test the headsets at an event organized by the trust this week.

“We already offer a video tour of the hospital so people can familiarize themselves with their surroundings before they come in," Cairns said. “However, we want to give prospective parents as much information in as many different formats as we can so they can make choices that are right for them and their babies." 

The hospital’s midwifery team worked with the Hull Institute of Learning and Simulation (HILS) to record the footage needed for the VR headsets, and the trust says they are now looking into how it can be used to provide training for staff and offer other virtual experiences. 

Assessing feedback from 130 people, the HILS team found 94 percent said the initiative "overall helped them feel better prepared for the birth of their babies," according to the trust.

Earlier this month,  launched a new software platform using VR and haptic sensors to help trainee surgeons, simulating the feel of performing an operation.