Innovative virtual reality project supporting women during pregnancy

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust recently launched a unique virtual reality (VR) project, with the aim of helping women who experience loss during the early stages of pregnancy.

The initiative, named Eirene, centres around providing women with a VR headset during their Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) procedure in order to lower their pain score and reduce their anxiety.

Eirene was conceptualised by Natalie Nunes, a consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Lauren Trepte, a Research Midwife, both from West Middlesex University Hospital.

Lauren Trepte said: “Eirene is a project which is very dear to our hearts, as we sadly meet women in the early stages of their pregnancy who have experienced a loss.  Peace of mind through observing a scene or a guided mediation while undergoing a MVA procedure reduces anxiety and aids relaxation.

“It gives them an alternative view and the opportunity to meditate, while being supported by our staff, and hopefully improves their mental health outcomes. Since launching the project, I have found that women are very receptive to the use of the headsets and like being given the option of a holistic comfort measure alongside normal painkillers.

“While supporting women during the procedure, I have seen that they appear relaxed and calm, and we hope Eirene continues to help promote and improve women’s health and wellbeing needs at times of discomfort and distress.”

The innovative project is named after the Roman goddess of peace and ultimately aims to give women who experience an early miscarriage a sense of calm and tranquillity during an emotionally distressing time.

The VR experience allows women to be transported to more natural scenes like starry nights and beaches, or alternatively enabling them to access immersive breathing exercises accompanied with soothing music.

For further reassurance, women can still hear their clinical teams providing morale support and helping them focus on their thoughts and their breathing.

Natalie Nunes said: “When the headsets are in use, it not only helps keep the women calm and gives them a more pleasant scene to observe, but it changes the entire atmosphere of the room which further improves their experiences. Everyone lowers their voice; instruments are not dropped on the metal trolley with a clang and the focus shifts from just a successfully completed procedure to the holistic and mindful care of the women.

“We also hope to reduce health inequalities as use is not dependent on someone’s command of the English language. Women for whom English is not their first language can still utilise the headsets and have the full experience that an English-speaking woman would have.”

This scheme has been partly funded by Rosetrees Trust and forms part of the CW innovation programme, which is a joint initiative between the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust and their official charity CW+.

If you want to know more about all the latest digital innovations in the NHS, make sure you register for our Digital Health virtual event on the 21st of July.

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