How virtual reality could help women during childbirth

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This is the web version of Brainstorm Health Daily, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top health care news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Hope you’ve had a good Wednesday, readers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of virtual reality and its intersection with health care. And it’s not just reasonable to maintain a healthy level of skepticism about using the technology in medicine, it’s necessary.

The current hype and hope about digital health rarely delivers practical solutions or results. At least, right now. It could take years, if not decades, for the technology to prove itself.

But that’s not to say that we should ignore early-stage advances—especially when it comes to traditionally under-explored areas like maternal health. And a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Grapevine, Texas demonstrates exactly why.

The research, focused on women in labor, involved a half-hour test that displayed certain relaxing sequences via a VR headset. The experiment involved women who hadn’t been given pain drugs and were going into labor for the first time.

According to Reuters, the study participants who wore the VR headsets over a 30-minute period had an average 0.52 point drop on the self-reported pain scale (which goes from 1 to 10) compared with the control group that experienced a nearly identical rise in pain.

This was a small group of just 40 participants in labor. But this kind of research helps explain why health care firms are so invested in the digital health space, including technologies which are still far from proven on a large scale. The hype and hope may take years to pan out but it’s going to be worth the wait. And the fact that maternal health in America needs significant improvements underscores that need. It’s good to see the researchers giving that underserved area the attention it deserves.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

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