Musical Birth

October 6, 2010  |  Posted by Stephanie | No Comments

Using Sound, Rhythm, and Music in the Pregnancy and Birth Experience

By Sally Niles, MT-BC, Doula

Whether we realize it or not, music is a part of us.  Even at the moment of conception.  How is this?

Conception begins through vibration and vibration is the beginning of sound.  Through sound, music is created.  As life begins in the womb, a fetus is developed around the sounds of her mother.

Did you know an unborn baby responds to sounds outside the womb around the 28th week of gestation?  A baby responds to the familiar voices of mother and father and can recognize these voices at birth.  In this case, music acts as the “mother voice.”

Is it possible to have an influence on an unborn baby’s brain?  Could sound, rhythm and music play a positive role in the prenatal period?  Absolutely!

Music and medicine specialists around the world believe music plays an important role in pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

“Prenatal Parenting,” by Frederick Wirth, M.D., gives detailed accounts of fetal brain development and how parents can influence its development through healthy lifestyle choices.

Fetal brain development is such an awesome event, yet most don’t realize how we help shape and build a baby’s brain.  Wirth, along with other researchers in the health and medical fields, acknowledges the importance music makes during pregnancy and birth.  Dr. Wirth suggests that mothers take ‘fetal love breaks’ to incorporate music and meditation into their daily routines.  By doing these fetal love breaks three times a day, the physical and neurological chemistry of mother and unborn baby can be stimulated for better health and well being.

A fetal brain has about 200 billion nerve cells at 18 weeks gestation.  Music helps to stimulate these cells, and creates pathways for development and learning.  An example of this is demonstrated through mothers who listen to classical music during pregnancy.  The structure and form of classical music acts like “an architect” as it builds nerve pathways through auditory stimulation.

The use of music during pregnancy, birth, and beyond is a tremendous way parents can build not only baby’s brain, but also bond with baby.  The emotional tone music elicits affects baby, mom and dad.  Whether you are listening to happy and joyful music, nurturing and relaxing music, or exciting dramatic music, the strong feelings conveyed are transferred to the unborn baby through a “bio-chemical” wash of positive neurochemicals.

Many babies who have been conditioned to certain music before birth respond in a positive and familiar manner to the same music the first few months following birth and, sometimes, years later.  One mother, a harpist, played a particular harp song every day throughout her pregnancy, but did not play it following the birth of her daughter.  When her daughter was around 3 years old, the song was playing on a classical radio station and her daughter said to her, “Mommy, what is that song?  I know that song!”

Prenatal music therapy is not a new concept.  Music is used throughout history in every culture.  Some cultures even use music to feel connected to the universe since they believe music is a fundamental element governing creation.

One custom is a certain African tribe directs pregnant women to go into the wilderness with others and together they meditate and sing until each person “hears the soul” of the child.  Other cultures have included music in birth rituals.

So how do we bring music into today’s fast-paced world where technology is dominant in prenatal care?  Some women bring their own music to the birthing room while others watch TV.   A couple may choose to do more intentional experiences with music by consulting with a music therapist.  There are Board Certified Music Therapists who specialize in prenatal music therapy and birth support.

Sound Beginning, LLC creates customized music programs and products to help families bring peace and relaxation into the pregnancy and birth process.   Here are just a few examples of music used intentionally for healthy and positive benefits:

  • Annie and her husband sing together to their unborn baby every night before going to bed.  This helps them feel connected to their baby and creates a stronger bond for them as a couple.
  • Julie takes time for “Music & Meditation” during her lunch hour at work.  She listens to her favorite nurturing songs that help her to feel loved and supported.  Julies says this helps reduce her stress level while at work.
  • Sarah has combined the training she received in her childbirth classes with techniques learned from the Sound Beginning Program.  She conditions her muscles to relax when she listens to music programs customized to her needs.  That in turn will help her cope during the labor process.
  • Holly decides to have an epidural, but wants to incorporate music that will help her during the pushing phase of labor.  She works with her music therapist to find just the right type of music that fits her needs.

These are just a few scenarios of how music can affect pregnancy and birth in a positive manner.  Music for labor must be chosen carefully because of the physiological and psychological considerations of the different stages of labor.  A music therapist can custom design a program to fit a couple’s specific needs.

At Sound Beginning, the music therapist and couple work together and practice music therapy techniques in preparation for childbirth.  The main goal is to bring as much enhancement to the pregnancy and birth experience as possible through music, meditation, and creative experiences.

Music and living go hand in hand.  Through prenatal music therapy we can create contented and calm wombs and help foster loving and healthy relationships.  The simple gift of music can give future generations a head start in creating a more peaceful world.

“What we play is life.” – Louis Armstrong

(This article first appeared in AZHEALTH Magazine March 2004 issue.  This copy has been revised and edited by the author, Sally Niles, MT-BC, Doula, March 2006)


Tough Times? Take Good Care of Yourself!

August 30, 2010  |  Posted by Stephanie | No Comments

“The first wealth is health.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

In these difficult economic times, many people have had the challenges of job loss and financial struggles.  Some days it seem like the whole world is against you.  The days can turn into weeks of frustration, and you may feel like you will never get a break.

Prolonged stress can affect self-esteem, motivation, and attitude.  This may negatively impact relationships, sleep patterns, and most of all, your ability to cope effectively.  Self-care is crucial during these times.  It is important to remember to face your stress directly, learn from the past, and reach out for help.

Here are some ideas to help you create an economical self-care program to get you through the tough times:

  • Keep your body moving by doing some physical activity every day – it can be as simple as 10 minutes of stretching or a short walk.
  • Start a Gratitude & Happiness Journal – write at least 3-5 things you are grateful or happy for every day, and if you feel inclined, share your list with a friend or family member.
  • Create a mix of songs on a CD or your MP3 player that elevate your mood and keep you focused on positive or inspiring thoughts.
  • Meditate and/or practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing to reduce anxiety, decrease stress hormone levels, and keep your mind and body relaxed, focused, and sufficiently oxygenated.
  • Seek out humor and laugh whenever you can – laughter releases endorphins, our bodies’ natural painkillers that serve to suppress both physical and mental pain and induce a state of well-being.
  • Remember that negative situations are temporary and will pass.  Visualize yourself at peace rather than worrying about what you fear.

Sound Beginning’s newest CD: Guided Meditations for Inspired Living, is an economical tool that can be a great tool of support in difficult times.  The relaxation practices and visual imagery can help shift your focus from negative to positive, so you can always be moving towards happiness and fulfillment, no matter what circumstances you face.

“The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one minute to the next.”  -Mignon McLaughlin


Are You Listening?

August 30, 2010  |  Posted by Stephanie | No Comments

Do you hear the noise of the TV, the car radio, the sounds of people talking on their cell phones as you pass by?   Are you at a point in this day and age of technology and over-stimulation where your brain and ears tune out most of the sounds around you as a means to defend your mental and emotional homeostasis?

Then maybe it is time to take a step back and slow down your pace so that you can restore a sense of beauty and serenity into your life.   I recently became aware of the International Listening Association, which is an organization entirely dedicated to advancing the practice, teaching, and research of listening throughout the world.

There was a research article mentioned about how listening to music that is positive and caring in its thematic manner, will in fact foster altruistic and helping behaviors in those who were exposed to this style and genre of music.  Not that this is a big surprise, but it is always good to be reminded of it. It is also important to promote this healthy practice to others.

Practicing active listening skills also helps us to make choices about what is important to hear.  What sounds are healthy and help us to heal, feel less anxious, keep us centered and bring a sense of balance into our daily living?  Here is my top 5 list:

  1. Music that elicits a strong emotional connection
  2. Nature sounds
  3. A baby’s laugh
  4. The sound of many voices singing together
  5. Relaxing music that encourages a slower heartbeat and intentional breathing

Sound Beginning encourages you to actively tune in to the sounds and music that bring enrichment and a sense of well being into your life this week.  Make your own list and seek to hear beyond the noise.

“The first duty of love is to listen” – Paul Tillich


Guided Meditations for Inspired Living

April 29, 2010  |  Posted by admin | No Comments

Guided Meditations for Inspired Living was designed for individuals and groups to practice relaxation techniques while opening the mind to the creative process of change and transformation. It consists of music-assisted guided meditations that encourage the creation of new attitudes, different perceptions, and expanded possibilities in one’s daily life.

The visual themes and use of metaphor go hand-in-hand with the musical mood and textures. The visualizations are like moving mind art that provide just enough structure to allow for imagination and dreams to take off and manifest into realities. This CD was created by Board-Certified Music Therapists who specialize in audio relaxation, visualization and meditation experiences.


Visualizations for Pregnancy

April 29, 2010  |  Posted by admin | No Comments

Enhance your pregnancy experience in only 5-10 minutes a day using researched and proven music therapy methods. Heartstrings: Visualizations for Pregnancy contains a series of guided visualizations set to music as well as non-musical positive affirmations. It was carefully created by Board Certified Music Therapists who specialize in music-assisted pregnancy and childbirth. Read more


We now offer phone and e-mail consults. You can call or e-mail us for therapeutic music recommendations! For a small fee, send you a list of health related music resources and customize an individual music program based on your needs. Read more


Music for Healing. Music for Change. Music for Life.

February 15, 2010  |  Posted by admin | No Comments

Sound Beginning, LLC offers products and services to help you relax and manage your daily stress.  Our unique programs, designed by Board-Certified Music Therapists, are founded upon scientific evidence and utilize proven music therapy techniques. The music programs were carefully chosen to meet the needs of individuals looking for non-medical or complementary methods of stress relief and support.

With our unique music therapy programs you can: Feel more relaxed and less stressed, change your reaction to chronic pain, reduce or eliminate the need for medications, prepare for life changes through music and imagery, build confidence, self-esteem, and empowerment, and add to the healthful benefits of music to your daily life.