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NurtureVR: The VR Program That Promises to Transform Prenatal and Postnatal Care

    Virtual reality is one of the driving forces that transforms healthcare all over the world. Now, with NurtureVR, a VR program developed for expectant mothers, technology has conquered another territory. Prenatal and postnatal care and support for new mothers’ well-being and adjustment becomes an immersive and fully personalized experience.

    What Exactly Is NurtureVR?

    The VR program is the result of a collaboration between BehaVR and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. Combining their unique talents and experience in pregnancy care and VR development, the team created a unique program that pregnant women and new mothers can use at home. NurtureVR addresses the key issues related to third term pregnancy and the first eight weeks after birth:
    • Pain management;
    • Mother-baby bonding;
    • Coping with stress;
    • Overcoming hormonal and emotional changes.
    One of the team members behind the new VR program, Allyson Brooks, M.D. of Hoag Women’s Health Institute, explained the way NurtureVR came into being:

    “This program was developed by women for women. It incorporates the insights of women who are pregnant or were recently pregnant to ensure that it meets needs that are as diverse as the experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood.”

    Why a VR Program for Pregnant Women and New Mothers?

    Virtual reality is a tested and proven medium for patient education and pain management , being currently in use by various healthcare services. Thus, the medical and VR development specialists at Hoag and NurtureVR decided that this is the best way to address the issues expectant mothers face.

    The VR Today. Currently Virtual Reality is growing in popularity and while companies like the Oculus Rift are losing some of their customers because of unpopular marketing practices, other devices, including the HTC Vive are taking the VR stage. Furthermore, with Google Cardboard creating the concept and other companies taking note, Smartphone Virtual Reality Goggles are letting consumers easily enjoy and experience immersive virtual and augmented reality. With huge consumer base, the multiple platforms for development, and the lack of many VR games and experiences, small start-ups as well as huge companies are investing huge amounts of money into the development of content for Virtual Reality, which might very well help VR finally achieve the world-wide recognition it didn’t manage to achieve on the market for years.

    “The idea of NurtureVR is that virtual reality can serve as a lifelong tool, something women can carry with them through the ‘fourth trimester,’ that eight-week period after a baby is born, and beyond,” said Chief of Neurosurgery at Hoag, Robert Louis, M.D. “We believe that women will be able to draw on the meditation, mindfulness, stress management and education they experienced through VR throughout their motherhood experience.”

    A Fully Customizable VR Program for Each User

    In order to provide the promised benefits, NurtureVR adapts to each woman’s lifestyle and demographic details. Thus, each expectant mother can set the VR program according to:

    • The environment, sound, and visuals they wish to experience;
    • Their own skin tone;
    • 3D ultrasound images of the baby;
    • Inputs the program collects from the user along the way.

    In order to create this highly personalized experience, NurtureVR uses the Dynamic Experience Engine developed by BehaVR. This engine is collecting the user’s biometric data and uses data-driven algorithms to create tailored experiences for patients enrolled in pain management, addiction recovery and stress management healthcare programs.

    NurtureVR and the New Mother-Baby Care Standard

    The VR program is designed to accompany expectant mothers for 14 weeks. Out of this, eight weeks’ worth of program is dedicated to the post-birth period. The Hoag and BehaVR team designed NurtureVR to be a close companion for women in the safety of their home, where they can relax and embrace the coming change to their life.

    Jaron Lanier created a virtual reality device in the 1980’s (EyePhone 1/HRX) and costed up to $49,000 for the goggles and gloves.

    For Dr. Louis, this is “a program that is unlike anything else we’ve seen in therapeutic VR or in women’s health.” Speaking on behalf of BehaVR, Chief Medical Officer Pete Buecker M.D. said:

    “BehaVR is excited to partner with Hoag to bring NurtureVR to women as they journey through pregnancy and into early motherhood, and we look forward to exploring how this technology can continue to be expanded and refined to support new moms and their babies.”

    Who Will Benefit From the New VR Program?

    At the moment, NurtureVR is in the pilot phase, being offered to a group of women in the third trimester and early post-birth weeks. However, the development team assures that the innovative VR program will be broadly available to healthcare providers this fall.

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