Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fundamentals of Relaxation Part 7 - Music


Music is a powerful element.  Music sets the tone for parties and attitudes.  It can energize, relax, invigorate, and invoke so many other emotional responses.

Music has been shown to promote relaxation of tense, aching muscles and carry a person away from a stressful situation.  With many medical conditions, research shows us that music can lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and stress (Mandel).  

For childbirth, the research demonstrates that women feel that music reduces perception of pain, increases concentration on positive techniques such as relaxation, cues breathing and distracts attention away from the pain associated with contractions(Hanser).

Music that has been used throughout the pregnancy can set the stage for the mind to be in a relaxed and meditative state, releasing stress and allowing the hormones of labor, such as oxytocin to do the work.  Endorphins are released in greater quantity when a person is relaxed!

Childbirth educators say expectant women and their support partners are increasingly making music a part of their births and to even put together playlists for different stages of birth.

Tina Cassidy, author of "Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born," (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006) said it's natural for women to want music around them during labor.

"If you go way back into history, singing was always a part of giving birth," Cassidy said.  Today's moms are using music in a variety of ways in the delivery room, bringing everything from meditative CDs or relaxation music on iPods to help them relax, to Salt-N-Pepa to help them, literally, "Push It."

“It has been known for several decades that music in childbirth can promote relaxation, especially if the mother and her partner practice with the music during the pregnancy,” says Regina, a nurse who teaches childbirth classes.  “When you practice the techniques covered in class with the same music week after week, you condition yourself to automatically relax when you hear that music.   Other music energizes you and that type of music is perfect for the second stage of labor…better known as pushing phase.”

If a mother is relaxed during labor and birth, logic and research shows that labor outcomes are better, with less stress for both mother and baby.  Less stress means more oxygen available and therefore less fetal distress and higher Apgar scores.

If you are considering making a play list, here are some songs that already DO appear on expectant mothers’ playlists.  Of course, you can find your own, but this is a good place to begin! Click here for a Childbirth Playlist!  Most are available on iTunes.

The video below is a great video created by Julie Samms RN and blends music with birth art to share the benefits of music during labor and birth.  This would be an ideal video to give to your clients as homework for deeper understanding.


Hanser, S. et al  (1983).  The effect of music on relaxation of expectant mothers during labor.  Journal of Music Therapy, 20(2), 50-58.

Mandel et al.  (2013) Effects of music therapy and music assisted relaxation and imagery on health - related outcomes in diabetes education: a feasibility study. Diabetes Education  July.

Smith et al. (2006) Complementary and alternative therapies for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database Systematic Review.

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