Gestaverso arrives: a ‘virtual birth’ simulator that guides future mothers

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Rocío López was experiencing her first pregnancy and dreaded the moment of giving birth. “I was scared that when the time came, she would have an instrumental birth.” The young woman did not want to be put in the position of having to resort to using forceps or a suction cup to remove the baby from the birth canal. “Luckily, in the childbirth preparation courses I met Gestaverso, I was interested in her proposal and decided to experiment.” The Spanish company, a pioneer in facilitating birth experiences through virtual reality, ‘trained’ the future mother in scenarios where she faced her fears. Rocío López finally had an instrumental birth, but, according to ABC, her virtual experience helped her “to have the entire situation under control and know in advance how she had to react.” The creators of this project in the metaverse are María Cantos and Juan Carlos Domínguez, two professional ‘midwives’, who were obsessed with the situation suffered by many new mothers like López, who come with fear at the moment of the birth of their baby. “We didn’t understand why we couldn’t get the couples to come calmly,” explains Cantos. With the idea in mind of eliminating concerns like López’s, Gestaverso began in January 2023, a project that consists of, through virtual reality, recreating the experience experienced in the last stage of pregnancy. “We simulate from the moment the waters break and contractions begin, until birth,” explains one of the midwives. And they do it based on a personalized experience for each woman, according to her birth plan or her fears. In this way they can recreate a cesarean birth, a natural birth, complications during the last moments such as fetal bradycardia or specific situations for each fear. Related News standard No A woman’s brain changes during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum RI The changes persist, at least until six years postpartum, and are anatomically similar to those that occur during adolescence, reinforcing the idea of ​​matrescence Full immersion They use virtual reality glasses, but they also recreate sounds, smells and even the sensations of a contraction or the introduction of a catheter. “For the immersion to be complete, it is not enough for the future mother to see it, she has to feel everything,” explains Cantos. The simulation begins in a fictional environment, the living room of a house, where you can move freely and interact with any object. After a while, when you are already immersed, the contractions begin to manifest. And although they are simulated, these hurt. «We do not practice any invasive techniques, we use manual pressure on specific points to recreate these sensations. “Women should familiarize themselves with the progression of contractions and learn to use resources such as breathing, pelvic movements, showering, the Pilates ball, thermal bags and also timing, so as not to go to the hospital too soon,” explains Dominguez. The experience continues until reaching the delivery room. Along the way, parents learn to recognize when labor has already started, what tests they will do when they arrive at the maternity ward, and, finally, the birth is recreated. To help immersion, they recreate sounds, smells and tactile stimuli that occur at the time of giving birth. The sessions last around 45 minutes, and are guided by both midwives at all times. Never leave the mother alone, unless that is one of her fears. “On one occasion we pretended that the midwife was late to the delivery room,” explains Domínguez. It wasn’t more than 5 minutes, but for the woman who lived the experience it was eternal. “It is a situation that can happen, and even if it goes badly in the simulation, women are later grateful that they have had that previous experience.” Less fear, more oxytocin Regarding the benefits of this practice, midwives claim that it helps generate a state of tranquility during childbirth: “the secretion and absorption of oxytocin occurs better if we are not secreting cortisol, which is normally generated with the restlessness,” says Cantos. “When a woman is calm during the birth process, it has been scientifically proven that she helps dilate more or helps the baby to oxygenate better,” highlights the midwife. They recommend carrying out this experience in the final stretch of pregnancy, around week 37, because it is from that moment on that the situations simulated in the facilities are experienced. Despite being focused on first-time mothers, Gestaverso has been approached by unfertilized women who want to conceive children but are afraid of giving birth, and even cases of second pregnancies. “In my case, my first birth was induced, so I had never experienced the situation of starting the process at home, and it terrified me,” says Carmen Noarbe, another pregnant woman who has resorted to the simulator. For Noarbe, the experience was fundamental to understand the importance of the figure of the companion. Gestaverso provides the tools so that both the mother and the companion can be focused at all times on the birth process. “Both my husband and I realized his key role in emotional support, relieving pain through massages or helping him with breathing,” says the woman.

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