Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music, Giselle Whitwell, Doula      Image - Prelude Header Graphic
"Music is the highest of all sciences." 

J.S. Bach
 
     The effect of music on man has been observed since ancient times; even the nurturing of unborn babies has existed for thousands of years. The Chinese had their Tranquility Centers, where mothers were encouraged to walk by the banks of the rivers to maintain their peace and serenity. The Hindus believed that mothers should be taught to transfer their thoughts to the fetus. Specially trained teachers shared this philosophy and gave mothers the necessary techniques in locations called Thought Rooms. Likewise, in Japan a technique called Tai-kyo, was developed where it was believed that the voices of the parents and extended family, their thoughts and feelings had an influence on the fetus; all disharmonious sounds were avoided. There are other examples from different cultures and historical times.

     In the present, these ideas are being rediscovered, mainly through scientific research and studies. Music and sound are beginning to play an active role in medicine as evidenced by studies in neurobiology and psychology. In this regard, music therapy is also making a contribution to the healing arts.

     The extraordinary benefits of music during pregnancy have been documented over the last twenty years, due to a period of tremendous scientific advancement in our understanding of life in the womb and its consequences thereafter. It has been established that the baby before birth is a hearing, feeling, and sensing being.

     Studies are showing that everything affects a pregnant woman, not only drugs, alcohol, smoking and diet, but also strong emotions and thoughts, leaving a lasting imprint on the child and his future. This means that active parenting starts while the baby is still developing in the womb, at the moment of conception, whether we are conscious of it or not. Therefore, our primary task as future parents is to accept this responsibility before conception and certainly at the onset of pregnancy. Music, because of its nature and qualities, is most suitable for the task of nurturing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development of the unborn baby.

     Music affects the cells and organs of the body. This is illustrated visually in the work of Ernst Chladni, and the late Swiss scientist Dr. Hans Jenny through his scientific study of how sound affects matter, which he called Cymatics. For example, a flat surface covered with sand when treated by sound will organize itself into patterns, some are very beautiful and symmetrical, others are disjointed, depending on the sound frequency (pitch level), decibel (loudness of sound), quality, source of sound, and other aspects. This has also been documented by the water research and work of Masaru Emoto.  Singing, humming and toning can have a similar effect on the body by either energizing or relaxing it. Likewise, it can alter one’s breathing patterns and state of consciousness, harmonizing right and left sides of the brain. Music has been found to affect digestion, circulation and blood pressure. The choice of music is therefore paramount during pregnancy. Lullabies have a particular relationship affecting this period of life.

     Hearing is the first sense to develop in the embryo, appearing in the third week of gestation. According to Dr. Alfred Tomatis, the baby’s hearing is functional between the fourth and fifth months of gestation. The importance given to this sense is also seen by the wide distribution and extensive connection of the auditory nerves in the rest of our body. It appears that we have been wired for music since our early days of life and this may have further implications for our whole development as human beings. Babies have let their parents know how they feel about certain music genres; for example, when the baby kicked a mother so hard while at a rock concert that she had to leave immediately, or by the agitated movements reacting to loud sounds. Ultrasound has let us witness how babies react to music within their confined space. Dr. Verny and many others cite studies where the baby in the womb has shown that he/she prefers Mozart and Vivaldi (classical and baroque music). In baroque music, the pulse of the slow movements resembles closely our own heartbeat at rest. Optimally, music selected for pregnancy needs repetition at regular intervals and to become a natural and joyful addition to every day life.

     Music enhances prenatal bonding. One of the most intimate and pleasurable events experienced by the baby in the womb is his mother’s singing. It is also one of the first dialogues exchanged between mother and child. Songs that communicate love, acceptance, and welcome are most reassuring to the baby. This is a two way process whereby the mother and child form a close attachment, developing trust, a feeling of safety and a sense of belonging. All other relationships will build on the quality of this first exchange. If we are nurtured lovingly with respect and consistency, then we will most likely treat others in the same manner.

     The personality of the baby is being formed in utero. Thomas Verny, on this topic, quotes Leonardo da Vinci from one of his Quaderni

"...the things desired by the mother are often found impressed on the child which the mother carries at the time of the desire one fear that the mother has, or mental pain has more power over the child than over the mother, since frequently the child loses its life thereby."

     It took several more centuries for psychiatrists and psychologists to prove this insight as true. Even though our lives might be stressful, what matters most is the way the mother thinks and feels about her developing baby, her fears and hopes. Hence, the mother’s thoughts and feelings provide the material out of which the child creates his personality.

     The music program we have developed for your pregnancy and birth has the gift of returning to you serenity and calmness. It draws you back into your inner awareness where you will find love and harmony with which to nurture your unborn baby and yourself.

References:

Tomatis, A.A. (1991). The Conscious Ear. New York: Station Hill Press, Inc.
Verny, T., MD and Kelly, J. (1981). The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. New York: Delta
Whitwell, G.E., RMT. (1999). The importance of prenatal sound and music. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 13 (3-4), 255-262.