Music in LaborIs it possible that something as passive as listening to music in labor can help women relax and possibly speed up labor? Absolutely!

For years, research has suggested that music has the potential to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which tells our body when to relax and when to digest. What happens we digest? We eliminate which of course requires the relaxation and opening of the excretory sphincters which midwife and author Ina May Gaskin says are directly related to the cervix.

“Each sphincter’s job is to relax and expand so that it can open comfortably and wide enough to allow the passage of whatever must move through. Elimination and birthing both involve the opening of sphincters.” (Gaskin)

So back to the music: When a woman is in labor, her body is producing the hormone oxytocin, known as the love hormone, which is what makes the uterus contract. Several studies, including this one, show that singing can increase the production of oxytocin. Music can also reduce the sensation of pain, as this study concluded. It also suggests that music can contribute to a faster recovery from birth and increase the mother-baby bond in the postpartum period.

That’s not to say that silence doesn’t also have its place in labor. One client said that she created a soothing music playlist of instrumental music, but that she needed the music OFF when it was “go” time at the end. Another mom preferred Al Green and Bill Withers, “til I got into active labor and then no noise at all, please!” This client never even pushed the play button on her music list: “I had planned on having meditative and tranquil music playing but once labor started I wanted nothing but silence!”

Here’s a sampling of what some of our other clients told us they enjoyed during their labors and births:

  • All Sons & Daughters station on Pandora.
  • Marvin Gaye and other funk artists.
  • Al Green and Bill Withers… til I got into active labor and then no noise at all, please!
  • Childbirth in the Glory, by Janet Angela Mills. It was very spiritual and empowering.
  • Jack Johnson Lullabies CD with one labor, and a worship CD with the other. I may have tuned them out during transition and pushing, but they never bothered me.
  • Pandora station based off the band DeVotchKa. It was incredibly comforting as it has been a favorite of ours for years. The music is actually one of the things I will always remember most about that experience.
  • My favorite praise and worship songs with some other favorite relaxing songs thrown in. It really helped me focus and keep my thoughts on the One who has me in His hands. It helped me relax and surrender to the process my body was leading me through.
    Worship playlist, helped and was relaxing.
  • A CD of lullaby’s from around the world. “While the planet sleeps” I think it was called
  • “Help me believe” by Kirk Franklin
  • “What Faith Can Do.” Best song ever!

Then there’s always the chance that the music – or the charger – inadvertently gets left behind, or takes a back seat to the labor itself, which is what happened to this Breath of Life mom whose labor went so fast, she doesn’t even “have a clue if there was music!”