During your pregnancy you’ll be exposed to a wide range of sounds and sensory stimulants as you go about your daily life. But the majority of studies that have been carried out into the benefits of listening to music during pregnancy has suggested that classical music has the most calming effect, especially those that incorporate a wide range of repetitive notes. These include compositions by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.
A recent study has even gone so far as to suggest that Indian classical music, specifically the Kalyani raga, has a significant influence on pregnant women and their unborn babies.
According to a report, a group of pregnant women was encouraged to listen to Karnatic music of Kalyani raga for at least 20 minutes each day. After 20 days, the researchers saw improvement in the unborn baby’s reflexes, responses, movement and mental stimulation, while it provided calming and positive effects on the pregnant woman.
Psychologist Rajesh Kumar Trived, who was asked for feedback on the study for the report agrees that ragas, which are considered sacred in India, have a soothing effect on moms: “Listening to classical ragas helps an expecting mom to remain calm and peaceful and this is very important for her baby. Why doctors direct expecting moms to stay happy is because her mood has a direct impact on the growing child.”
Of interest to Indian moms-to-be is that ragas like Malkauns, Shaant, Bageshwari, Yaman and Bhairav are also considered good as they have a soothing effect on moms.
Both scientific researchers and parents tend to agree that playing harsh, erratic music such as rap and heavy music can induce a negative response from babies within the womb. This is due to the fact that this type of loud, discordant music can startle your baby. Unlike the melodic sounds and lullaby effect of classical music, this kind of music can disrupt your baby’s peaceful state, elevate his blood pressure and have a negative impact on his mental well-being and physiological development.
How loud can my music be?
Regardless of type of music you listen to during your pregnancy, prenatal practitioners agree that it’s important that you listen to your favourite music in a way that is safe for your baby. This is because if your unborn baby is exposed to loud music for a prolonged period of time it can have a detrimental effect on his hearing capabilities and stress levels.
As a rule, most prenatal practitioners agree you should avoid placing headphones directing on your belly when playing music for your baby. Although it may seem that you require loud music or headphones in close contact to your womb so your baby can hear it, this type of close contact can overly stimulate your baby.
From when should you play music to your unborn baby?
That warm, cosy cocoon your unborn baby develops in is not as quiet as you’d think. According to Mayo Clinic, your baby begins to develop the ability to hear at about 18 weeks.
Besides the soundtrack of your beating heart, your baby can respond to sounds both inside and outside your body. After 24 weeks, your baby can actively listen and move in response to your voice and his heartbeat has been shown to reduce at the sound of your voice.
Research has also shown babies can remember other sounds they’ve been exposed to while in the womb. A University of Leicester Music Research Group is reported to have followed a group of moms who played a single piece of music to their baby during their last 3 months of pregnancy and discovered the babies could remember and prefer music they’d heard before they were born over 12 months later.
Previously it was thought the effect only lasted about 3-4 months.
“Babies who hear the same music that was played while in the womb fell asleep faster and slept longer than babies who did not hear the music,” said Dr Alexandra Lamont, who was part of the research group.
While there’s no clear evidence to support the fact that playing music to your baby while you’re pregnant will guarantee extra sleep when you welcome him to the world, or that he’ll have a higher IQ as he grows (as some studies suggest), one thing that is clear is that music is a great way for any mom-to-be to unwind and to connect with her unborn baby.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.