Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music, Giselle Whitwell, DoulaHeader Image - Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Prenatal and Perinatal Music Therapy?

Prenatal and Perinatal Music Therapy assists primarily mothers during pregnancy and the first few months after birth. It is an individualized process in which the music therapist and the mother use music to create a loving bond between mother and baby, while also building a sound foundation for healthy development. Through the sessions, the therapist also supports the mother and father in preparing for parenthood.

2. What is Active Music Therapy for Childbirth?

Active Music Therapy for Childbirth is the application and development of a therapeutic music program that corresponds to the process of labor and delivery, assisting the mother, her partner and their baby during birth. The goal is to reduce distress and fear, to manage labor pain and its discomforts through sound and music in order to achieve a positive and natural childbirth.

3. How early should I start prenatal music activities?

The earlier one is engaged in musical activities, the more benefits will be derived by the expectant parents and the baby. These are cumulative in their effect. Thus, the optimum time to begin prenatal music exposure is at the beginning of pregnancy. However, engaging in musical activities during any part of the pregnancy will benefit the baby, mother, father and other siblings.

4. How long should I expose my prenatal baby to music each day?

There is no specific requirement for optimal benefits. This will depend on your schedule, desire and time at your disposal. It should be an enjoyable activity for the mother and father. It is not the amount of time that is important but the quality of the experience and music chosen for singing as well as for listening. The most natural way is to have music as part of your daily activities while washing dishes, driving, during relaxation, etc. Over stimulation is not desirable and this again is individual. If you are tired of listening to the music, then likewise, the baby will have had enough. Again, there is no magic formula, your individual needs will dictate the proper amount of time.

5. How loud should the music be?

Generally as loud as you would normally hear music in your home which is between 50 and 60 decibels. A decibel is how the intensity or loudness of sound is measured. Shouting is equivalent to the sound of a motorcycle at 100 decibels, and rock concerts have been measured to around 115 decibels. Loud music has been found to negatively affect the developing baby in several different ways, lower weight at birth, defects, and others.

6. What kind of music is used during prenatal music therapy?

The music depends largely on the aesthetic values of the parents. However, research has demonstrated that babies prefer music that is calming, serene, and soft such as classical and baroque music. Within these styles there is a great variety of music to choose from. Studies have shown certain musical genres to have specific effects. Rock music has been found detrimental, jazz music may have some unsettling effects, and appropriate folk-songs and lullabies are excellent. Babies prefer the parents’ voices, especially the mother’s voice because it offers positive stimulation, bonding and communication. Singing is highly recommended during pregnancy, not only for the baby, but also for the mother because it conditions certain muscles for labor and delivery, helping her to relax.

7. What if I can’t sing?

The baby in the womb has no judgment. He/she anticipates the great pleasure of hearing the mother’s voice anytime, as it is very distinct from all other sounds heard in the womb. Even if the mother does not have particularly good intonation, or quality of voice desired, the effects will still be very beneficial. And if the expectant mother is very self-conscious she can sing with a recording, simply hum a tune or sing with a group of friends.

8. How can fathers participate in music stimulation?

Fathers can choose their own lullabies to sing to the baby, if possible at the same time each day as the baby will begin to notice the event and possibly respond in some way. During relaxation periods, fathers can also move their hands over the tummy of the mother to the rhythm of the music and talk to his baby, welcoming him/her, conveying his love.

9. What about the devices used over the mother’s tummy?

There are several devices on the market for parents who want to stimulate their babies with music. There are cassette players with belts to hang around the mother’s waist, trumpet like devices to talk to the baby, etc. Personally, I do not recommend any of these devices because each baby in the womb is very individual, with a weaker or stronger threshold for sound. The baby can’t give you a signal when he/she has had enough or when the style of music is irritating him/her. I feel that any direct application of such devices would be an invasion of the baby’s environment, disrespecting his individuality and might negatively affect his personality.

10. What do I do after the baby is born?
After the birth of the baby continue to sing the lullabies and womb song (a special song of welcome to the baby) as these songs will be very comforting and soothing to the baby, especially if there are signs of colic. The music you listened to during your pregnancy will be familiar and help the baby adjust to his/her new environment.  There are good recordings in the market. I highly recommend the C.D's and song books by Mary Thienes-Schunemann”

Some Examples of Music To Listen To During Pregnancy

Johann Sebastian Bach: The 6 Brandenburg Concertos; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from the Cantata 147; Air for the G String; also the Orchestral Suites.

F. Chopin, the 2nd movements of his two Piano Concertos.

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, 2nd movement.

Jules Massenet: Meditation from Thais.

W. A. Mozart: the Violin and Piano Concertos, the Symphonies, particularly the 2nd movements of these compositions.

J. Pachelbel, Canon in D.

G.P. Telemann, the Violin Concertos;

Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto for 2 Violins, Lute and Continuo in D Major; Concerto for Cello, Strings and Continuo in E minor; many of his various other concertos for different instruments, particularly the 2nd movements.

Other composers include Albinoni, Boccherini, Corelli, Gluck, and. Handel.