Augmented reality (AR) may play a larger role in medicine and healthcare applications than virtual reality (VR), but the immersive engagement of VR makes it the better choice for some treatments. In 2019 we wrote about a study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that found VR to be effective as an alternative to pharmaceuticals in pain management for adult patients with a variety of medical conditions ranging from orthopedic injuries to cancer.

More recently, on February 7, 2020, Melissa Wong, MD, NHDS, a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist at Cedars-Sinai presented a study at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting. Her results showed that VR reduces pain in women in labor.

In a 12 -month study from March 2018 to February 2019, the Cedars-Sinai researchers compared reported pain levels and heart rates of 21 women in labor compared to a control group of 19 women who did not use VR or pain management medicine. The study found the women who used VR during labor had a statistically significant reduction in pain and lower heart rates than the women who did not use VR or other interventions.

This study in VR pain management used a self-selected group with self-reported pain scores, but the efficacy of the technology for this subjective measure isn’t in question. Applications that require long-term pain abatement present additional challenges, but VR looks like an excellent choice for women who want to use it during labor.