Benefits of Music in Pregnancy

Written by Shankar Mahadevan Academy on 13 May 2014

How Singing and Listening to Music can Help your Unborn Child:

Prenatal studies show that at the beginning of the second month of pregnancy, a foetus’ eyes, nose, and ears are clearly visible, and by the fifth month, the baby's hearing has fully developed. This has lead to further research regarding the baby’s ability to recognize music and the various benefits that music can have on the unborn child and the mother. This article explores a few of the benefits associated with music in pregnancy and how it may help your unborn child. 

Music reduces pregnancy stress levels :

Music has been seen to reduce high stress levels that many pregnant women experience during their pregnancy. A study of 236 pregnant women conducted by researchers at the College of Nursing at Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan, showed that the participants who listened to music for 30 minutes per day for two weeks significantly reduced their stress, anxiety, and depression, when compared with participants who did not. 

This study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, was conducted on participants who were all in either their second or third trimesters. Half of the participants were given music CDs and asked to listen to them for a half an hour per day. The choice of the music was left to the participants and most of them chose nature sounds or lullabies. The other half were not given any CDs. Both groups received equal routine prenatal care. The research showed that women in the music group saw a significant drop in stress, anxiety, and depression scores, while those in the control group had a minor drop in stress. 

"Pregnancy is a unique and stressful period for many expectant mothers and they suffer anxiety and depression because of the long time period involved," says author of the study Chung-Hey Chen, who is now based at the National Cheng Kung University. "Any intervention that reduces these problems is to be welcomed. Our study shows that listening to suitable music provides a simple, cost-effective and non-invasive way of reducing stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy."

Music helps strengthen the bond with your unborn child:

Recent scientific research into the effects of prenatal music stimulation shows that music provides an excellent way for the mother to bond with her unborn child. Prenatal stimulation is a concept that uses stimuli such as sounds (either a mother’s voice or musical ones) along with movement, pressure, vibrations, and light to communicate with a developing baby prior to birth. 

While both music and singing can be used to strengthen the bond with your child, Dr. Michel Odent, M.D., believes that women have a profound need to sing to their babies. Singing to your unborn child is extremely beneficial since the singing voice has a richer frequency range than speech. Frequency is the level of pitch measured in Hertz (Hz.) and varies between 16 to 20,000 Hz. A mother's voice is more clearly heard by the fetus, as there is very little distortion when compared to other external voices, especially in the higher frequencies.

Music may help in fetal brain development:

Research on the effect of music on brain development is in its infancy and experts can't seem to agree on whether music is enjoyable or bothersome to fetuses. While there are many studies indicating that fetuses can hear and react to sound by moving, no one really knows what those movements mean and whether they help in fetal brain development. Gordon Shaw, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Irvine explains that since experts can't observe an unborn baby as easily as one could observe someone who is out of the womb, the baby’s reaction cannot be accurately assessed.

California obstetrician Rene Van de Carr, author of the book While You're Expecting...Your Own Prenatal Classroom, observed a 33-week-old fetus pattern his breathing to the beat of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. His theory is that the fetus followed the rhythm of the symphony, only because the child in the womb understood and learned something about the rhythm and enjoyed it. But Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist who studies fetal development at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland says these conclusions are purely anecdotal, and aren't based on true research. Yet she observes that music helps in relaxation and "When a woman relaxes, that's good for the fetus and that's an indirect effect of music on the fetus."

What is the best way to use music in pregnancy?

Since most of the research on the benefits of music in pregnancy is still in its infancy, it is better to exert caution when playing music to your unborn child. Here are a few general points that experts recommend when using music during pregnancy.

• Practice music therapy in moderation: Like all good things in life, music therapy too should be practiced in moderation. Don’t listen to music just because it is good for your baby. Listen to your feelings instead. If you feel relaxed when listening to music or singing, chances are that your baby will feel the same too.

• Be careful about the volume you choose: A popular misconception is that a baby inside a womb cannot hear music unless it’s turned on loud. However, sound is easily conducted via the amniotic fluid and thus the volume chosen should be low, no higher than 70 decibels. It is also advisable not to place headphones or a speaker directly on your abdomen.

• Avoid music that is loud, chaotic or disturbing: The choice of music played also matters. Dr Rosalie Pratt, Professor of Music Medicine at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah points out to certain animal studies that show how constant exposure to chaotic, discordant music negatively alters the brain's structure. A good choice, according to Dr Pratt, would be Classical music (especially Mozart’s symphonies), or any kind of soft, melodious music of your liking other than rap, grunge, or hard rock songs.

Make music a part of your pregnancy:

Pregnancy is a wonderful time to prepare for your child’s birth and music can play an important role in shaping those months into something special. As you listen to your favorite music or sing to your unborn child, you are starting to create a special bond that will last for a lifetime. 

The long hours of pregnancy can also be used to pick up a hobby for which you never had time before. If you have always wanted to learn music but have never had the opportunity or occasion to do so, you can use the extra time to take up music lessons. The Shankar Mahadevan Academy, founded by renowned singer, musician and composer Shankar Mahadevan, offers an excellent opportunity for those interested in singing to take up online singing classes. Expert teachers with the help of specially designed OM (Online Music) books conduct online classes according to your personal convenience. You can also choose to learn Indian Classical music, Hindustani music or Bollywood Film songs through self-learning packs. “Today, the best thing one can gift a talented family member, relative or friend is an opportunity to learn music. And since my music academy is online, it has the potential to really grow and take our music across borders and boundaries, “says Shankar Mahadevan, founder of the Academy. Gift yourself an online music class today and make music an essential part of your pregnancy. Learn more at

Did you know that pregnant women who listen to music experience reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression?