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Midwives win award for providing ‘virtual’ birthing experience

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A team of midwives in Hull have won a national award for offering parents-to-be a virtual experience of labour and birth.

Hull Women and Children’s Hospital has received an award for its “use of technology” for its use of virtual reality headsets on the maternity unit.

“Our use of technology is allowing women to know… what they might expect during labour and birth”

Janet Cairns

The midwifery team became the first in the world to offer virtual reality headsets to around 400 prospective parents, so they can see what it is like to use a birthing pool in the unit or a birthing ball in the labour ward.

Staff at the hospital worked with Hull Institute of Learning and Simulation (HILS), based in the clinical skills building at Hull Royal Infirmary, to record 360-degree footage for the headsets.

In addition to using the headsets to tour the Fatima Allam Birth Centre, women who know they are having a caesarean section are also offered the opportunity to see inside an operating theatre before coming into hospital.

As a result, the midwives and HILS have won the “Use of Technology” category award at a British Journal of Midwifery ceremony in Leeds.

vr maternity 2

vr maternity 2

Source: Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust

The head of midwifery at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Janet Cairns, said: “Our use of technology is allowing women to become familiar with their surroundings, know who could be there with them when they go into labour and what they might expect during labour and birth.”

“Our midwifery team worked with HILS on the project and this award is fantastic recognition of what can be achieved through innovative thinking, dedication and teamwork,” she said.

Ms Cairns explained that wearing the VR headsets was like being in the room.

“People are able to see all around them and watch midwives interacting with mothers and partners during labour,” she said.

“We’ve got a video tour of the hospital so people can familiarise themselves with their surroundings before they come in, but the headsets take it to a different level,” she added.

She noted that this was part of an initiative to provide prospective parents as much information in as many different formats to ensure they make the choices that are right for them and their babies.

“People are able to see all around them and watch midwives interacting with mothers and partners during labour”

Janet Cairns

HILS senior technician Chris Gay said: “The feedback we’ve had from parents so far has been really positive, with more than 90% reporting the experience helped them feel better prepared for their birth of their babies”

He added that the company is now looking at how it can expand the project further to help “shape services” it provides in the future.

According to the trust, prospective parents have been road-testing the headsets at its ”HEY Baby Carousel” events, with the next one taking place on Wednesday 27 February, between 6pm and 8pm.

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