EXCLUSIVE: Virtual reality headsets successfully reduced anxiety for women during both childbirth and abortions, studies find – but experts say the imagery is so powerful we need to test it like drugs

Virtual reality headsets successfully reduced anxiety and pain for women during childbirth and abortions.

In the first phase of a major new trial testing VR in childbirth at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, all of the women involved said the experience left them less anxious, and most (57 percent) said it reduced their pain.

Another study, at UCLA, found women who used VR headsets for more than five minutes during an abortion in the first trimester felt less anxious.

The studies, being presented at this week’s annual conference for the American College of Gynecology, represent small but significant steps towards a very different approach to dealing with pain, anxiety, excitement and fear in pregnant women.

The first virtual reality experiences designed to distract from pain started emerging in the last few years, largely to treat acute pain and burns.

Despite the high cost of the devices – around $700 per headset – the concept quickly gained attention as a way to treat chronic pain instead of opioids, as addiction rates continue to climb.

Now, with the innovation of much cheaper paper headsets, the potential is even greater – and medics of all fields are starting to investigate how they could use it.

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