Why music is so important when you’re giving birth

iPod at the ready! Plan your soundtrack for delivering your baby and you could have a smoother birth

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When you’re planning a celebration, a party or a wedding, at some point consideration is usually given to the music that will enhance the event. Increasingly people use their ipods to break up long journeys, and friends who have run marathons say that music ‘got them through’. In the same way it’s worth thinking about the benefits that music can bring to labour and birth and the ways in which it can help you on your big day.

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Listening to music during labour and birth is not a new idea, however it is often overlooked as a coping strategy and given that it costs nothing and can work in conjunction with other types of pain relief it is worth planning a playlist that is personal to you.
People’s musical tastes vary widely but most of us have favourite tunes which energise, relax or just lift our mood. All of these can be useful in labour. Trials show that music can lower perception of pain, help to regulate heart rate and breathing, reducing the amount of morphine type drugs needed. Music can also reduce anxiety which in turn can help you feel calm and in control. And what better way to bring your baby into the world in a good mood?

You could delegate the role of DJ to your birth partner as a practical task which they can take charge of; it might also help them to focus on your mood and give them some control in an unfamiliar environment.

The key benefits of listening to music during labour and birth are

•    Familiar music helps you feel calm and in control
•    Music can reduce anxiety and assist in pain relief
•    Your music helps to make the labour room ‘your own’
•    Music blocks out other distracting and unwanted sounds
•    Music can help you to move & staying mobile can help your labour and birth
•    Labour can be a long ‘journey’; having music to listen to can act as a welcome distraction

What should you put on your birth playlist?

Something to block out distractions

On a busy labour ward the first consideration is that there could be other distracting sounds, so taking along some music can be useful to block these out; the sound of call bells and buzzers is not particularly relaxing.

Something familiar

In addition to this your own familiar tunes can help to personalise the birth space, set the tone and make the room feel like your own. These familiar tunes can stimulate endorphins and hormones which are helpful in labour acting as natural pain relief especially in the early stages of labour.

Something to relax you

Perhaps when you plan what music to pack you might think about what you would want to listen to on a long journey to pass the time; this could be helpful for the early stages of labour. Identify what music makes you feel comfortable and relaxed, some chill out music may help as labour progresses.

Something that makes you dance

Alternatively, what makes you dance? Although you may not be bopping your way through the birth, staying mobile can certainly help progress in labour, so it may be that music motivates you to stay off the bed and keep swaying, stomping or whatever else feels right at the time.

For some examples of playlist ideas and further information on the benefits of music for labour and birth you can look www.birthbeats.org which has been designed by a midwife. If you would like to share your experience of listening to music during labour please email birthbeats

What did you have on your birth playlist?

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