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Soothing sounds and peaceful pictures create calming birth at TUH

Published:  13 May 2020

When baby Cruz Glindemann entered the world last month he did so to the calming sounds of birds chirping in the background and views of a picturesque rainforest, all without leaving the confines of the Townsville University Hospital’s birth suite.

Cruz and his mum Shayna are one of 35 births who have taken part in a Townsville University Hospital study investigating how a simple environmental change can make a big difference to a woman’s birth experience.

Clinical research coordinator and midwifery group practice caseload midwife Mariann Hadland said the study, called the Immersive Sensory Experience, examined whether a projector displaying calming visuals and relaxing sounds of the woman’s choosing could help create a friendlier and less clinical environment for women when they were giving birth.

“We know that birth is a natural part of a life; however, when a woman moves from labouring in the familiar environment of their home to a clinical one, it can sometimes have an impact on birthing,” Mariann said.

“Our study hopes that by displaying calming images and peaceful sounds on a large projector screen, women will feel more relaxed, leading to a better birthing experience.”

Mariann said the study would look at both objective and subjective measures.

“The research collects data on the mode of birth, the length of labour, and what types of pain relief the woman requests,” Mariann said.

“We also conduct an interview with the woman after her birth, asking her to retell her birth story, get her thoughts on the screen and whether they believe it had a positive or negative impact on their birthing experience.”

Shayna, who is also mum to Tatum (3) and step mum to Kody (4), said having the projector during Cruz’s birth made a huge difference to her birthing experience.

“The projector provided a really good distraction through my whole labour,” Shayna said.

“During early labour my partner and I would play a game where we would guess the next bird or fish that would show up, and when I got to the later stages it was nice to hear the relaxing sounds of animals in the background.”

Shayna said her partner also found the projector a great distraction.

“He wanted to put the football on it but I squashed that idea pretty quickly.” Shayna laughed.

“It did give him something to focus on other than me being in pain though which was good.”

Mariann said preliminary results were overwhelmingly positive.

“We started this project back in November 2019 and it has been very well received,” she said.

“Many women report that using the projector delayed the need for stronger pain relief as it helped them focus on their breathing and offered a distraction, especially in the early stages of labour.

“We were also surprised to hear that support people, particularly fathers, really liked having the projector.

“A birthing suite can be quite noisy with the usual beeps of hospital equipment and both labouring women and their support people liked having something else to focus on to distract them from the clinical stresses.”

Mariann said while the study itself was only open to women in the Midwifery Group Practice, after completion of the study period other women were welcome to request to use the projector.

“At the moment we only have the projector in one of our birthing suites so availability is dependent on whether the room is free at the time a woman is giving birth,” Mariann said.

“The study is due to be finished in May but we intend to keep the equipment available in the room for women to use if they wish.

“We are hoping that our research will make the case for how adding something very simple to a conventional birthing suite can create a better experience for women.”

The project is possible thanks to contributions from the Townsville Hospital Foundation and Townsville HHS Study, Education and Research Trust Account (SERTA).

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