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Heart and Harmony Music Therapy now offers Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth. MTACB is perfect for mothers who understand the important role that supportive music can play during labor. A board-certified music therapist works closely with the family during the second and third trimesters to carefully construct personalized playlists that correspond with each stage of labor. Music tracks are mindfully selected to support the physiological processes of labor and delivery. Families can choose Birth Music Therapy where the music therapist attends the birth and implements the music program, or Birth Music Consultation, in which a doula or birth partner are trained to implement the thoughtfully programmed playlists.

About Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth

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Although there have been advancements in anesthesia for labor and delivery in recent years, many couples today choose to have a natural childbirth experience. It has been substantiated by research that birth outcomes for mother and baby can be greatly enhanced through the natural childbirth process. Many free­ standing and hospital ­based family birthing centers are popping up around the country to meet this growing need. Several non-pharmacological interventions are available to laboring mothers including: hypnosis, biofeedback, touch and massage, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation. Another successful discomfort management technique being explored is the application of prepared music programs during Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth.

In the early 1980s, Music Therapists began to explore the use of “audioanalgesia” (sound for discomfort relief) in the music therapy process in working with labor and delivery patients. Music therapists assist patients in the clinical application of music in suppressing the discomfort response, but can also work with patients in deeper psychological and emotional ways. The process of “music therapy” differs from “music medicine” based on the establishment of a relationship between therapist and patient. Music therapists specifically design and develop unique treatments for each patient based on the patient’s need and condition.

A Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth program is conducted by a board­ certified music therapist, and consists of a series of sessions usually offered in the last trimester of pregnancy. Some music therapists also provide labor and delivery support for the couple during the birth and post­natal visits. Couples are taught how to use music to support their physical and emotional needs throughout the stages of labor and delivery. The music therapist assists the couple in selecting and applying a specially chosen music program to calm, comfort, block discomfort, and focus breathing for each mother. The music therapist may also provide instruction in imagery and relaxation techniques, movement training, singing of lullabies and womb songs, and other creative arts experiences. (A womb song is a special song that is written for the baby while in utero.) Familiar music can help comfort the mother during the birth experience and practice with the music before the birth is essential. This therapy has been found to significantly decrease the mother’s anxiety and discomfort responses, decrease the need for analgesic medications during birth, and has contributed to overall positive feelings about the birth process.

7 Foundational Processes of Music During Labor and Birth *

1. Biological­ – Music changes biology­ is used to support a laboring mother to regulate breathing, lower blood pressure and respiration, and decrease discomfort.

2. Psychological­ – Music enhances the ability to use coping mechanisms during labor (childbirth techniques), and may seem as though that time is passing faster than it is.

3. Sociological: – Music evokes social support from others and holds the birthing team together including: coach, nurses, doctors, doula, family members, and music therapist.

4. Emotional­ – Music can be used to match or affirm moods and feelings the laboring mother is experiencing (iso principle) or may be used to help her change her mood.

5. Developmental­ – Music can support the process of becoming a mother, help her to work through her fears and to let go.

6. Spiritual –­ Music can enhance and support spiritual processes of the laboring mother and may evoke a peak or transpersonal experience.

7. Environmental­ – Music can be very important in blocking out extraneous sounds in the birth environment that may interfere with the laboring woman’s entrainment process. Music also provides a “sound blanket” which fills the space and wraps the birthing mother in sounds of comfort and safety.

Research

In a study * of 14 couples who participated in a Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth program it was found that music therapy was very beneficial during the labor and delivery process (DiCamillo, 1999). The use of music during labor and delivery was most effective in supporting (rhythmic) breathing (86%), remaining calm (86%), focus (71%), and in discomfort management (64%). Women who practiced the techniques at home and who were familiar with their music felt in control and had more positive birth experiences. Many of the women (64%), felt in control most of the time during labor and delivery. Imagery techniques were effective when paired with the music, and (71%) stated that these techniques were the most beneficial. All of the women (100%) felt well supported during labor and delivery. All participants (100%) stated that the music therapy program enhanced family bonding with the baby during the immediate post­partum period.

In another case study * by DiCamillo (2000), Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth was found to greatly enhance the birth outcome of an emergency pre­term delivery of an infant (33 weeks gestation) due to the mother’s condition of severe pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure). Due to the mother’s precarious medical condition while in labor, the physician recommended against epidural anesthesia. The mother was able to have an unmedicated, vaginal birth which is what she desired using only music for discomfort relief. The baby was breathing on its own at birth and did not require ventilation. Both mother and baby are doing fine today.

All information and training provided by Sound Birthing Music.

Photo by Christina Childress.

*DiCamillo, M. (1999). A bio­psycho­social model of music therapy assisted childbirth: an integrative approach to working with families. Doctoral Dissertation, Pepperdine University

*DiCamillo, M. (2000). Music therapy assisted childbirth: a case study of an emergency high­risk pre­term delivery due to pregnancy ­induced ­hypertension. International Music Society for Prenatal Development Review, 12, 2, 8­13.

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