Health benefits for the mother and child from music intervention in pregnancy

T. Ventura, M. C. Gomes, Maria Teresa Neto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to anxiety disorders, but stress andanxiety have been associated with premature and low birth weight babies, presumablybecause of fetus overexposure to glucocorticoids of maternal origin. Antenatal stress alsoseems to have long - term effects upon the newborn development and adult health.Medication for stress is a possible solution but it carries risks to the expectant mother,thus the efficacy of non-pharmacological interventions should be investigated. Thischapter reviews relevant literature on the negative effects of mother's anxiety upon thefetus and, because music has long been suggested to be a valid method of relaxation,studies regarding the effect of music listening in the fetus and in adults are also reviewed.We present results of our own study on the impact of three methods of relaxation uponpregnant women awaiting amniocentesis. The women (n=184) were randomly dividedinto three groups and each was subjected to a 30 min intervention: (1) listening torelaxing music, (2) sitting and reading magazines, and (3) sitting in the waiting - room.Before and after the intervention, women completed the Spielberger's self - rating anxietyquestionnaire and provided blood samples for cortisol (C) and testosterone (T). Thegroups were then compared regarding change in C and T levels and in anxiety. We founda significant correlation between C in maternal plasma and in the amniotic fluid.Maternal C and state anxiety were also correlated. The greater decreases in plasma Coccurred in the music group, followed by the magazine group, and differences betweeninterventions were statistically significant. Women in the music group also decreased Tand had the greater decreases in state anxiety. Pregnant women might benefit from theroutine practice of relaxation in clinical settings or at home. Such practice shoulddiminish the likelihood of exposure of the fetus to high levels of stress hormones, mainlyrepresented by cortisol, with health benefits for child postnatal development and for adulthood. Music appears to be an effective and inexpensive way to lower anxiety levelsin a relatively short period of time, a benefit that has been shown to correlate withdecreases in plasma and amniotic cortisol and plasma testosterone. We propose that theroutine use of relaxing music should thus be considered before stressful clinical eventsand as a domestic routine during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Impacts, Health Benefits and Perspectives
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781628081442
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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