Music and the Womb: Myths and Benefits of Early Exposure to Music

Music and the Womb Myths and Benefits of Early Exposure to Music - motherhooddiaries

One of the most common pieces of advice for expectant mothers is to practice prenatal exposure to classical music. Playing concertos for your baby will supposedly result in a head start in education.

A 2011 study reported that babies who were exposed to music three weeks prior to delivery remembered the melodies one month after birth. In the study by Psychobiologist Carolyn Granier-Deferre, the babies’ heart rates slowed by 12 beats per minute with the familiar melody and only 6 beats per minute with an unfamiliar tune.

Despite these findings that newborns do apparently react to familiar sound, there is little consensus among experts as to whether music really does have any great effect on babies prior to birth. So here are some myths and what we actually can determine about music and prenatal development.

My Baby Will Be Smarter


Studies have demonstrated that music lessons may enhance spatial reasoning skills in kids as young as 3 or 4. And while the benefits of early music education are often celebrated, this does not mean that a mother helps her unborn child become the next Mozart.

If anything this kind of pressure, even prior to birth, will probably only mean that the child’s parents are placing ‘too much emphasis on achievement at a too-early age’. Instead, mothers and fathers should concentrate on helping the time in the womb to be full of as many simple pleasures as possible.

Music Can Help a Baby Relax

Music and the womb - motherhooddiaries While you may not be able to ensure a college scholarship for your baby just yet, there is evidence that exposure to music can help to slow a baby’s heart rate and aid sleep.

The Baby Center.com related the findings of a Californian obstetrician, Rene Van de Carr, who reported observing a 33-week-old fetus adjusting his breathing pattern to match that of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. However, other researchers remain unconvinced that this is caused solely by exposure to a song.

Music can cause the mother to relax. “When a woman relaxes, that’s good for the fetus and that’s an indirect effect of music on the fetus,” says Janet DiPietro, a psychologist studying fetal development at Johns Hopkins.

But whether it is the song itself or a response to the mother’s heart rate, the effects may still be beneficial for the baby.

Can Music Disrupt the Baby?

Music can be a positive way of bonding the mother and child prior to birth. However, there is a slight danger that exposure to too much loud noise over a long period of time can have adverse effects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found in several studies from the 1990s that unborn children exposed to loud noise for long units of time had a greater chance of premature birth, lower birth weight, and hearing loss. But this was usually caused when their mothers worked in a high volume environment.

But it is still a good idea to keep your stereo below 65 decibels so as to protect the baby and not startle it. This is because there is the potential risk that cranking on Handel may wake the baby from its natural sleep pattern. Choose good quality headphones/earphones with a stronger bass to encourage a more subtle sound to penetrate through the mother’s belly.

To Play or Not to Play

All in all, there is definitely no detriment to your baby caused by providing a musically full uterine environment. Your fetus’s hearing is developed by the end of the second trimester so play away.

There are other things that will contribute to stimulating and bonding with the baby include:

  • Stroking the abdomen to feed the sense of touch
  • Reading aloud and just talking to expose the child to your voice

And if you are relaxed this will transfer to the baby. So if finding local piano teachers and taking a lesson or two helps you to feel mellow, then this will be good for your child as well. But it probably won’t help them become a genius either.

What methods do/did you use during your pregnancy to stay calm and relaxed?

Music and the Womb Myths and Benefits of Early Exposure to Music - motherhooddiaries

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Jessica Socheski (1 Posts)

Jessica Socheski is a freelance writer and social media fan with a passion for learning new things. She currently enjoys writing about family life and health topics.