Comfort Measures in Labor: Singing
When my husband and I clean the house we always go for the same music to start the cleaning. We always put on the Guardians of the Galaxy record and crank up the stereo (an old Hi-Fi I inherited from my grandmother and my husband refitted with new equipment). There is something about that period of music that puts a smile on our face and pumps us up to do a few tasks we would rather ignore.
Music is powerful. Singing intensifies that power. Click To Tweet
Music is powerful. Singing intensifies that power. Belting out a song, regardless of the quality of the sound coming from your throat, puts a smile on your face and makes you feel better.
I recently wrote an article about how music affects us and how it can be used in labor. But today, I want to be a little more specific and talk about how singing affects us and the incredible comfort it can bring to a woman in labor.
Studies are showing that singing has an effect on both the production of endorphins and oxytocin. It alleviates anxiety and fear and promotes relaxation and bonding.
Stacy Horn, in an article for TIME entitled “Singing Changes Your Brain,” wrote, “What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”
The mechanics of singing also affects the singer’s breathing pattern. It slows down breathing while increasing the volume of oxygen intake. Breathing quality over quantity leads to a reduction in stress and an increase in relaxation.
“It’s also an aerobic activity, meaning it gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation, which tends to promote a good mood. And singing necessitates deep breathing, another anxiety reducer.” (Does Singing Make You Happy?, How Stuff Works)
Horn went on to say, “The benefits of singing regularly seem to be cumulative. In one study, singers were found to have lower levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress. A very preliminary investigation suggesting that our heart rates may sync up during group singing could also explain why singing together sometimes feels like a guided group meditation. Study after study has found that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life.” (Horn, Singing Changes Your Brain, TIME)
A study at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, reviewed 200 studies on how music and singing improves psychological health and well-being. They found: (Carlos Fletes, Clinical Research on the Benefits of Singing)
- Listening to preferred music stimulates the release of dopamine (the brain neurochemical responsible for pleasure and reward), reducing the use of opiate drugs in postoperative pain
- Singing can increase levels of Immunoglobulin A and decrease levels of stress
- Singing increases levels of oxytocin promoting social affiliation
- Music is shown to modify and regulate automatic systems such as: heart rate, respiration rate, perspiration and other automatic systems
Singing has been shown time-after-time to promote bonding and social connections. When we sing together, we open ourselves up to others. The wall of protection we build between ourselves and others is lowered. A closeness begins to form, often even between unlikely relationships.
My mother-in-law recently told me a story about how singing led to a momentary boding experience with a complete stranger. Her and a friend were returning to work after having lunch. As they got out of the car, the radio had been playing James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” They got out of the car and looked at each other and sang, “I feel good…” A man was walking through the parking lot and got down on one knee and started playing the air guitar. They all laughed and a connection was made between complete strangers.
“…some of the most important ties between singing and happiness are social ones.” (Does Singing Make You Happy?, How Stuff Works)
How can I incorporate singing in labor?
Singing in labor seems to come naturally for many women.
My suggestion would be to pick a few songs that make you feel strong, remind you of God’s mercy and provision, songs that you can sing to your baby, songs that remind you of the love you and your husband share for each other, and songs that lift your spirit. Start singing these songs now, every day. Sing them to your baby, slow dance with your husband while you both sing, sing them when you go about your daily chores. They will become second nature to you and you will not even think twice about what to sing while you are in labor.
Here are two of the most beautiful videos of two women singing in labor to inspire you to find your own labor songs.
The first video is from a fellow doula, Lisa Johnston, who sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” about an hour before her child was born. I watched this video through tears because that song was sung at our wedding by my sister and brother-in-law. It was my grandfather’s favorite song and is such a beautiful song about the love, grace, mercy, and provision of the Almighty and Sovereign God.
This second video is of a woman, Temple, and her husband, Brent, harmonizing Psalm 23. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Singing is a safe, free, and enjoyable way to reduce anxiety, increase the beneficial hormones of labor, and promote bonding not only with your baby but with your family and birth team.
When you feel relaxed, trust your birth team, and feel supported in labor, how you view your birthing experience will be very positive even if you have to deviate from your original plan.
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you are interested in learning about more comfort measures in labor, check out my Comfort Measures page.