This Friday, 16th of September at 4pm, we will have the public presentation of Diana Mendes’ PhD proposal (CAT) titled “Virtual Reality to Promote Adaptation to Psychological Responses after Early Pregnancy Loss”.
The session will take place at room 2.109 at UMa and via Zoom (https://videoconf-colibri.zoom.us/j/94524360949).
You are all welcome to attend!
An Early Pregnancy Loss, here described as the demise and expulsion of a baby/fetus at or before the 20th week of gestation, is a very frequent event that can have a strong impact on a couple, and particularly a woman. Some women who suffer this type of loss have difficulties processing their grief, which has been linked to the development of complicated grief, anxiety, depression, and/or even posttraumatic stress disorder. Despite many studies that corroborate the development of complicated responses after an early pregnancy loss, not much attention has been given to it, especially in Portugal, lacking both extensive studies to characterize this population in the country, and clear guidelines or standardized tools to prevent or reduce the risk of developing mental illness. Therefore, the first phase of this project is devoted to characterizing the population of women in Portugal who has gone through early pregnancy loss in terms of the presence of psychological morbidity and the influence of contextual factors. Following this study, we are aiming at developing a technology-based preventive tool that helps reduce the risk of psychological morbidity in this population. A literature review has suggested that technology-based treatments have shown to be as effective as standard face-to-face treatments. Immersive virtual reality in particular has shown to be an ideal tool for the application of protocols based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy, which are amongst the most successful in treating complicated grief, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, the use of virtual human agents in these tools and casual video games has shown to increase adherence, engagement, and their efficacy.
It is our objective to develop a preventive tool in an immersive VR environment for deployment in head-mounted displays, that incorporates restorative environments, virtual human agents, and casual video gaming to deliver a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy-based psychoeducational experience. This tool is to be tested for usability, and its efficacy will be evaluated through a Randomized Controlled Trial. We expect our work to help reduce possible symptomatology of clinical perinatal grief, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress in this population, and that it shows positive effects up to three months after intervention.