West Middlesex University Hospital’s early pregnancy unit is using a new virtual reality solution to help support women who experience a loss in the early stages of their pregnancy.
Women are being offered the use of Smileyscope virtual reality (VR) headset, during manual vacuum aspiration procedure to help reduce pain and lower their anxiety levels. The VR headset enables women to be immersed in a nature scene, such as a beach or starry night, or they can use an immersive breathing exercise accompanied by soothing music.
The VR has been designed to bring a sense of calm at an emotionally distressing time as women are still able to hear the clinical team, who provide additional support and encouragement to focus their thoughts and concentrate on breathing.
The Smileyscope headsets have been provided as part of the Eirene project, which was launched by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and its charity CW+. The project is jointly funded with the Rosetrees Trust.
Lauren Trepte, research midwife at West Middlesex University Hospital, was one of the women who conceptualised the project. She said: “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.”
Trepte worked with Natalie Nunes, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, on the project at West Middlesex, who added: “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.”
The Eirene project is also helping to address health inequalities as the headsets can be used regardless of language barriers to ensure all women still have the full experience.
Chris Chaney, chief executive officer at CW+, said: “We are delighted that through the CW+ Nurses’ Call 2021, we have helped launch Eirene which uses state-of-the-art technology to help alleviate pain and anxiety to improve women’s health and wellbeing.
“Eirene has now joined our extensive portfolio of CW Innovation projects, and we remain committed to incorporating innovation into our thinking.”
West Middlesex University Hospital joins Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for adding virtual reality to its services. In 2020 Norfolk and Suffolk added the technology as part of its treatment for patients with phobias.