Filter Stories By

Hoag Makes Innovative Maternity Program a (Virtual) Reality

What if you could meet your baby before he or she was born? What if you could experience the early stages of motherhood, just before they happened?

The questions sound like the premise for a science fiction movie, but they’re real desires expressed by women for years. As the hospital with the highest volumes of births in Orange County, Hoag has listened to those questions – and answered them.

Women giving birth at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach or the new Fudge Family Birthing Suites at Hoag Hospital Irvine now have access to NurtureVR, a program that harnesses virtual reality (VR) in behavioral health, education and pain management.

This 32-week perinatal VR program was designed in partnership with BehaVR and with Allyson Brooks, M.D., the Ginny Ueberroth Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair of Hoag Women’s Health Institute; and neurosurgeon Robert G. Louis, M.D., program director of the skull base and pituitary tumor program at Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute and Hoag Empower360 Endowed Chair for Skull Base and Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery.

“The process of being pregnant is universal but how a woman experiences pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period is individual, and this was designed to honor that,” Dr. Brooks said. “As you invest time in these modules, you’re ‘feeding’ your baby through your thoughts, so you actually see the umbilical cord lighting up as you progress over time. You’re creating this relationship with your baby that is in sync with the baby’s development.”

A first-of-its-kind program, NurtureVR is being offered to women who are 28 weeks pregnant. Expectant mothers will use VR headsets to access 14 weeks’ worth of educational material, meditation capabilities and other immersive experiences. After the baby is born, the program continues for an additional eight weeks, with topics that cover maternal-baby bonding, partner intimacy, stress and hormonal and emotional changes.

Hoag has been at the forefront of integrating VR applications across a broad range of specialties, including neurosciences, heart, cancer and even COVID-19.

NurtureVR is built upon decades of research into VRs ability to mitigate pain, create experiential learning environments, lower stress and improve well-being.

“We can see on functional MRIs that VR decreases a patient’s focus on the pain, not just the emotional unpleasantness of pain but the physical sensation of pain, as well,” Dr. Louis said. “When you see the before and after, it’s amazing.”

Hoag’s patient-centric focus lead to the development of this extraordinary program, with women expressing an increased desire to learn about pregnancy, child development and post-partum issues in ways that are personal to them.

“We incorporated the insights of women who are pregnant, were recently pregnant or are trying to become pregnant to ensure that no matter what kind of pregnancy you are experiencing, Hoag is going to take care of you the way only Hoag can,” Dr. Brooks said. “How a woman experiences pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period is highly personal. NurtureVR was designed to meet each woman where she is.”

For more information, call 888-550-4623.