Can Singing Reduce Risk of Postpartum Depression? [STUDY]

Cevasco, A.M. (2008). The effects of mothers' singing on full-term and preterm infants and maternal emotional responses. Journal of Music Therapy, 45(3), 273-306.

It is no secret that while pregnancy is a great joy for many mothers, it can also be one of the most stressful times in a woman’s life. As the due date draws near, she begins to constantly worry about her future child; will he be healthy? Will I bond with her? What if he’s premature? These worries do not cease once the baby is born; they continue into the first few weeks of the baby’s life as the mother is tending to the baby’s every need.

The purpose of this article was to discover the effects of mothers’ singing on adjusting and bonding to their newborn (Cevasco, 2008). Preterm and full-term mothers were involved in the study; preterm mothers were assessed for coping with their infants’ stay in the NICU, full-term mothers were assessed on increased anxiety and postpartum depression. For the experimental group in preterm and full-term mothers, recordings of the mothers’ singing were put onto a CD to play for their baby while hospitalized. This CD consisted of lullabies, children’s songs and popular tunes chosen by each mother. Each mother could take the CD home with them after their baby was released from NICU. The CD was played for each infant for 20 minutes every day, and occurred at a time when the mother was unable to visit. Two weeks after the infant was released from the NICU, the researcher conducted a phone survey for each mother.

The results showed a statistically significant difference between mothers’ value of music; the preterm experimental group valued it more (Cavasco, 2008). On this item- “knowing my infant listened to my singing helped me to cope with my infant’s stay in the NICU”- preterm mothers gave a mean score of 4.75 (5 being that they strongly agree). Although it is not statistically significant, preterm infants who listened to the CD of their mother singing left the hospital an average of 2 days sooner than those preterm infants who didn’t have a CD of their mother singing. Mothers in the experimental group for preterm and full-term expressed a bonding experience with their child just by making the CD, and they sang more at home after the infant was released from the hospital than those in the control group. Both experimental and control group mothers expressed signs of postpartum depression, thus suggesting that there is future research to be done on how music therapy can be a positive intervention for women dealing with postpartum depression.

This study focused on the mothers’ perspective and how music eased her anxiety, and helped her bond with her infant. Future research in this area could focus on music therapy and mothers’ singing on decreasing anxiety in her infant. The NICU is not a friendly place for a newborn; it’s noisy, bright, and there’s machinery everywhere. The machinery and procedures used to keep the baby alive create an extremely stressful environment for the newborn. Music therapy could absolutely be a positive intervention for lowering heart rate, decreasing anxiety, and conserving energy. In this study, data was not collected on oxygen saturation rate, heart rate, or respiratory rate. Measuring those variables would have been a great place to start research on how music therapy can help newborns in the NICU, and since this article was published in 2008, there have been more studies done on this exact subject. Regardless, music therapy has a positive future in the NICU as an intervention for parents and newborns.

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Image credit: Wikipedia Commons user Chrisbwah