Home > Blog

Innovative Uses for Music Therapy on Pregnant Moms and Preemies

By Carissa Andrews  •   June 26, 2014

Music is as old as time itself and as profound as we allow it to be. Those who listen can find music even in the most mundane things; the hum of the furnace against the ticking of the clock, and the rotating of the dryer! Or perhaps the gently melody in blades of grass bending to the wind, mixing with the sound of crickets nearby. Research has shown that music can drastically affect our physiology, and our neurology, right down to our perception of pain.

Music therapy as a source of healing has been around for centuries. In fact, Plato is known to have said, "Music affected the emotions and could influence the character of an individual." Music therapy as we know it today began in the aftermath of World Wars I and II. Musicians in the UK would travel to hospitals and play their music for soldiers suffering from war-related emotional and physical trauma. Because of the apparent successes, music therapy has been applied as an allied health profession to all sorts of ailments ranging from helping dementia patients, to improving the odds for premature babies. Music therapists utilize music and all of its facets"physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual"to help their clients improve their health.

Childbirth can be a beautiful, albeit somewhat painful experience for any mother, regardless of how they deliver their babies. One of the ways some mothers may wish to combat the pain naturally is by utilizing Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth (MTACB) options. Now, don't misunderstand - this is not just listening to your favorite songs while in labor, which can also be beneficial. Instead, MTACB is music, support, information, and education to the birthing family by the music therapist during pre-natal, labor, birthing, and the immediate post-partum experience. Music therapists develop unique relationships with the birthing family to design and develop specific, unique treatments based on each family's needs. In addition, professional music therapists are formally trained musicians who are required to obtain a degree (BA, MA, or PhD), complete an internship, and pass a board-certification exam. If a birthing family chooses to try MTACB, the benefits are quite substantial.

Research suggests that MTACB:

* Decreases the mother's anxiety and discomfort before, during, and after birth

* Decreases the need for analgesic medications during birth

* Decrease pain perception in labor and delivery

* Speeds up labor

* Allows some control over the labor & delivery environment

* Contributes to overall positive feelings about the birthing process

* Supports rhythmic breathing

* Empowers mothers to feel in control

* Enhances family bonding during the immediate post-partum period

* Is beneficial whether the delivery is natural, with anesthesia, or C-Section.

For infants who are born prematurely, this world we live in can look and sound harsh at times & especially when you consider they're amid beeping monitors, IV poles, and plastic breathing tubes. Many preemies are so fragile, they cannot even be held, and so what's a parent to do in order to bring comfort and support to their child? Because of their precarious position, families can become afraid of interacting with their preemies because they are so sick and frail. Music provides them something that they can still do to engage and bond. According to an article in the Washington Post, more than two dozen U.S. hospitals offer music therapy in their newborn intensive care units and its popularity is growing.

A study on music therapy and its impact on infants was published in April 2013 in the journal of Pediatrics involving 11 U.S. hospitals. In the study, therapists played special small drums to mimic womb sounds and timed the rhythm to match the infants' heartbeats. The music appeared to slow the infants' heartbeats, calm their breathing, and improve sucking and sleeping.

As you can tell, the results of music therapy can be seen across the board for both mother and infant. From personal experience, my hospital in central Minnesota allowed us to have either a music therapist, or our own music brought in during labor. For both of my children, I set the stage by picking music I knew would carry me through the experience, and had the playlist loaded on my iPod and ready to go. When my son was born a month early, he was extremely jaundiced and suffered extreme dehydration because of it. We relied on the bili lights to sort out his bilirubin levels, but being inside the box of lights was very stressing on him. I often played soothing, soft music to keep him calm and help him get through each session. I can attest to the benefits it provided for him when he was recovering and he's now a happy, healthy nearly 9 year old.

What about you? Have you used music as medicine? Leave us a comment on your experiences.


Carissa Andrewsis an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.