Sonder Health and BehaVR have announced a new partnership to offer NurtureVR, a VR-based digital therapeutic to help expectant mothers with stress, anxiety and fear as an additional support tool to users of Sonder Health’s telelactation and telenutrition clinical services. When combined with BehaVR’s NurtureVR program, the Sonder Health telemedicine platform provides moms-to-be and new moms with 24/7/365 support.
BehaVR’s partnership with Sonder Health provides moms and their families with access to 22 weeks of educational material, mindfulness skills and immersive experiences, along with around-the-clock access to specialty-trained telehealth International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and Registered Dietitians.
“Recent studies have shown the enormous impact that the pandemic has had on the rate of anxiety, stress and depression in pregnant women, known to have a connection to shortened gestation periods and preterm delivery — birthing factors that contribute to the high rates of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity,” said Aaron Gani, founder, and CEO of BehaVR. “NurtureVR offers pregnant moms and families a calming place to forge a deeper connection with, and understanding of, the physical and emotional changes underway, allowing for the strengthening of coping and resiliency mechanisms that can change the state of maternal mental health in the U.S. We are thrilled to have Sonder Health as a partner on this journey.”
Along with the risk for depression during pregnancy doubling during the COVID-19 pandemic, breastfeeding statistics are also telling a story of moms and babies being left under-nourished physically and emotionally, leading to a 41% newborn readmittance rate for feeding problems. In addition, the current IBCLC care provider-to-patient ratio is extremely high, offering 1 IBCLC for every 193 women and often only during regular business hours though women have breastfeeding problems all hours of the day that need to be addressed within three or four hours. The combined solutions of Sonder and BehaVR can create a very different picture of the pregnancy and breastfeeding experience for moms and babies.
“There is a huge need for additional support for moms, especially right now during the COVID pandemic,” said Michele M. Behme, RN, CEO of Sonder Health. “Medical facilities currently cannot keep up with the level of maternal care that moms need, including mental health and lactation support －two major factors in health outcomes for both mom and baby.”
Sonder Health’s lactation consulting and nutrition counseling takes place through live virtual visits via a mobile device, tablet, or computer. The secure video visits are HIPAA compliant and accessible online as scheduled or on-demand appointments. All providers are licensed, certified, and trained in telehealth delivery for clinical quality standards and emergency management protocols. Lactation consulting services are compliant with World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
“Many women do not receive help for behavioral health issues, lactation or nutrition support until they discover there is a major problem,” said Lauren Majors, IBCLC, co-founder and president of Sonder Health. “We want to change that and give moms the support they need when they need it. Our partnership with BehaVR allows us to reach even more women and babies with the care they deserve.”
With modules covering everything from nutrition to lactation to labor, NurtureVR is designed to regulate the anxieties and fears that come with the most critical phases of pregnancy. It continues through birth with eight weeks of postpartum content, covering issues such as maternal-baby bonding, partner intimacy, stress management and hormonal and emotional changes. NurtureVR also allows women the option to personalize skin tones, environmental settings, and breastfeeding style — all in the spirit of cultivating empathy for the self and creating a deeper connection between them and their babies.
NurtureVR was developed and piloted in partnership with Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Orange County, CA. in 2020, and the outcome of a deeply collaborative process with moms, physicians, nurses and midwives. NurtureVR is built on decades of research into VR’s ability to mitigate pain related to pregnancy, create experiential learning environments, reduce stress, and improve wellbeing.