Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Singing Lullabies to Unborn Children: Experiences in Village Vilamarxant, Spain

Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Singing Lullabies to Unborn Children: Experiences in Village Vilamarxant, Spain

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: When pregnant women of the village of Vilamarxant, Spain, began singing for two hours a week, they discovered a cascade of psychological benefits including emotional expression, tension relief, and a powerful group solidarity. As they clapped and tapped musical rhythms with their hands and feet, learning folk songs and lullabies, their babies seemed to be joining in their fun. Two older mothers who were scheduled for Caesareans gave birth spontaneously and confidently. After their babies were born, the mothers who had sung to their unborn infants found themselves more proficient at calming their newborns to sleep, and they were able to continue to breastfeed longer.

INTRODUCTION

My colleagues and I want to share a new and interesting activity which is a part of the maternal education program in the Health Center at Vilamarxant, Valencia, Spain, where I work as a midwife. We have created space and time for expectant mothers to sing to their unborn babies. Even though our project seems new and original to us, expectant mothers have sung to and talked with their unborn infants for many centuries. We want to tell you why we include singing as part of preparation for birth, give you some of our history, and tell you about its beginnings, our present practice, and the projects we anticipate.

We want to present our project in the context of a modern understanding of unborn infants. We will review some of the latest findings indicating the fetus' capacity to process aural, visual, and tactile stimuli from the extra-uterine environment, as well as fetal ability to establish and maintain a two-way communicative relationship with mother and her environment from at least the twelfth week of gestation.

As Dr. Thomas Verny says: "If you told an expectant mother that her baby can hear her voice or perceive her love, she couldn't deny it. This is because mothers know intuitively what scientists have only recently discovered: Before birth the child is a profoundly sensitive individual that has an intense relation with its parents and the outside world while it is still in the uterus." (Verny & Weintraub, 1991).

HOW WE BEGAN

We did not invent the idea of motivating pregnant women to sing in a group at the Health Center. The idea has both ancient roots and modern promoters. Dr. Michel Odent organized group meetings around a piano in the French village of Pithiviers so that expectant mothers could sing together. He hoped that by singing together, they would feel more comfortable and would form emotional attachments with the clinic and with the other women. He created a friendly and welcoming atmosphere as he stressed women's basic needs for intimacy during birth. Dr. Odent discovered that group singing brought many benefits to both mothers and fetuses during gestation, birth, and post-natal relationships. During a discussion in a class which helped prepare women for giving birth, I told a group of women about some of Dr. Odent's ideas, including singing. Meeting to sing one day a week for two hours is now an "extra" activity which we offer in addition to the basic theoretical classes, walks, picnics, games, films, and meetings with the babies' fathers. Each activity in which an expectant mother participates with enthusiasm, and later talks about with pride or joy, attracts other women who, in turn, become part of the group.

Unfortunately, our clinic does not pay much attention to Dr. Odent's ideas that a mother who is giving birth needs privacy, intimacy, silence, lack of interference, or even a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Those of us in maternity education or in first care centers are not free to change the birth protocols, which are very inflexible, and our obstetricians are not concerned with the emotional needs of women who are giving birth.

This inflexibility makes it doubly important that we create ways in which a mother finds strength which allows her to believe that she, her baby, and her husband are the principal protagonists during delivery. …

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