VR childbirth is now a thing

A Nordic insurance firm have created "Birthual Reality" which is helping parents prepare for birth by showing them exactly what to expect -- in full 360-degree VR.

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Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
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Gjensidige Försäkring Sverige

Virtual reality may be considered the chief domain of the forward-thinking gaming crowd and oft-considered a fad, but some of its more interesting applications are being developed in hospitals and universities around the world. Stanford children's hospital uses it to visualise congenital heart defects and The Family Reunions Project helps immigrants reunite with their families back home, demonstrating how virtual reality can offer unique experiences.

Now, thanks to Nordic insurance company Gjensidige Insurance, you can also experience a childbirth in virtual reality for the first time.

Shot at Örebro University Hospital in Sweden, the 10-minute 360-degree video offers insight into the preparation and labour for a young couple, then switches to an over-the-shoulder camera angle of the expectant mother before, during and after delivery of the baby.

Chief midwife at BB Stockholm hospital, Kristina Müller, believes this new virtual reality experience "has the power to make people really understand what actually happens when a child is born" and is hopeful Birthual Reality can ease some of the discomfort around preparing for childbirth, according to a press release Thursday.

The gaming community have called VR a "fad", but hospitals and universities continue to forge forward with unique applications aimed at improving patient outcomes.

There is a growing amount of evidence that virtual reality apps can help patients deal with anxiety that comes with hospital stays and dealing with pain -- and while Gjensidige in no way suggests that this VR experience will ease the pain of childbirth -- it hopes the technology can at least prepare would-be mums and dads for what's to come.

The full video is available to watch on YouTube and the company also provides the Google Cardboard-styled "Birthual Reality" headset, which it has sent to all major Swedish maternity clinics.

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