Sound Therapy during Pregnancy

Eva listening to Sound Therapy at 9 months

Sound Therapy offers many benefits to a mother and her unborn baby, and helps a newborn settle easier into its noisy new environment.

Sound Therapy uses classical music and stories that has been filtered through a specialist device - the Electronic Ear designed by ear specialist Dr Alfred Tomatis - using specific algorithms and activation filters and the addition of higher harmonics.

Dr Tomatis was one of the first to research what the fetus hears in utero, and how the mother's relationship with her baby in the womb impacted later emotional development of the child. The mother's emotional state during pregnancy has a great impact on her unborn child.

Sound is the first sense to develop fully. The foetus' ear is ready to perceive sound at 4½ months. Tomatis discovered that, due to the how embryonic ear develops, the first sounds heard in utero are high frequency sounds (above 8,000Hz).

Through his clinical work with children, Tomatis became convinced that the process of listening began in utero. Among the sounds that the fetus hears as early as four and a half months after conception, is the sound of the mother's voice. Amid the other uterine noise, this sound has the potential to interest the fetus to focus upon it, to listen to it. Through its intonation and rhythm, the mother's voice conveys her feelings. They may stir the desire to communicate or discourage it. Tomatis refers to this as the "first dialogue."
Warmth and a sense of welcome in the mother's voice will invite the fetus to seek out this voice and stimulate the desire to communicate with it. In addition to nourishing the fetus emotionally, the maternal voice also imprints upon the fetus' nervous system the structure and rhythm of the language the mother is speaking. The higher frequencies of the mother's voice will also provide neural energy to the fetus, nourishing it in another way.
Support for Tomatis' contentions can be found in research assessing the ability of the fetus to discriminate between sounds (Eisenberg, 1976) and the new-born infant's ability to identify the mother's voice (DeCasper & Fifer, 1980) and to show a preference for stories their mother read before birth (Spence & DeCasper, 1982; DeCasper & Spence, 1986). ...
Tomatis pursued his interest in the origins of the listening process and through his experimentation discovered that the fetus hears only the higher frequency sounds of the mother's voice. He originally hypothesized that the lower frequency sounds were filtered by amniotic fluid but later proposed that the corti cells responsive to higher frequency sounds are active long before the cells responsive to lower frequency sounds. This means that the fetus' auditory world is primarily one of higher frequency sounds. This permits dialogue with the mother's voice and at the same time prevents the fetus from being overwhelmed by the predominantly low frequency sounds heard in utero (heart beat, respiration, digestive noises, etc.). This earliest "dialogue" sets the stage for the child's readiness to open his ear (to listen) to the sounds of the world beyond the womb and prepares the nervous system for the integration of language sounds. It is further reason to appreciate the depth and critical nature of the relationship between the fetus and the mother in the development of the human being (Tomatis, 1981).
From Gilmor, T.M. (1989) The Tomatis method and the genesis of listening. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 4(1) pg 9-26
Full article available for purchase online

Effects of Sound Therapy on the expectant mother and the child within

Listening to Sound Therapy during pregnancy soothes the whole body, promoting , , and .

Dr Tomatis found that the mother's state of health and mind during the pregnancy has a significant impact on the child. When the expectant mother listens to Sound Therapy during her pregnancy, the benefits which she receives are passed on to the foetus. This is because the effects of Sound Therapy are passed throughout the whole body, as the ear is connected to the vital pneumogastric (Vagus) nerve.

Our clinical experience suggests that where there have been significant difficulties during the pregnancy for any reason (it is unwanted, mother's poor health, mother's apprehension or anxiety due to events in her immediate world), the desire to communicate and/or the child's ability to integrate language is often affected. More than that, their emotional ground is shaky and insecure. It can lead them to protect themselves by retreating from the world beyond the womb as opposed to participate actively in it and to welcome the opportunity to grow. Their energy is directed toward maintaining the status quo or retreating to an earlier more secure stage of development (i.e. returning to the womb) instead of welcoming the opportunity and challenges of growing up and moving beyond the world of the mother (first the womb, then the home) into the social world represented symbolically by the father, a world in which language is the bridge for effective communication.
As clinicians, we frequently see children and adults with emotional difficulties and language and communication disorders which can be traced back to problems during the pre-natal life or birth experience itself, birth representing the first passage from the known to the unknown. The one link which is constant in this transition is the mother's voice.
It is not unusual to see language and learning problems associated more frequently with children whose interaction with the mother through her voice has been poor or completely breached (premature infants, adopted children, children who have not been wanted and for whom the sonic link between the mother and fetus was weak and/or devoid of emotion). On the other hand, it is common to see children of musicians, children of mothers who have spoken and sung to the fetus pre-natally adapt rapidly to the demands of language integration. It is no accident that musicians frequently come from parents who were also musical. Many hear the sounds of music during the mother's pregnancy. Tomatis would suggest that this auditory stimulation nourishes the nervous system of the fetus and prepares the ground for an easier integration of language.
From Gilmor, T.M. (1989) The Tomatis method and the genesis of listening. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 4(1) pg 9-26
Full article available for purchase online

Research

The Tomatis Method started being used during pregnancy in the Maternity Care Unit at Vesoul Hospital, France, under the supervision of Dr Klopfenstein and Marie Ouvrard. The results of a study of 150 women were so positive that Sound Therapy has become part of the hospital's permanent practice. Only 4% of the listeners required a Caesarean (compared to 15% in a control group with no preparation and 13% with regular antenatal classes) and the average time of labour for listeners was 2.5 hours, compared to 4 hours in the control group.

Dr Penet and Madame Tjordman undertook a similar study at the Hospital Foch de Suresnes, France, with 1150 women in 3 groups as for Vesoul. The study likewise found:

See also "The Importance of Prenatal Sound and Music". for more research about the how sounds heard in utero affect the unborn child.

To obtain maximum benefit from Sound Therapy, it is recommended that a pregnant woman should listen to Sound Therapy for 3 hours a day throughout her pregnancy. Listening to Sound Therapy can be done during other activities, so does not require time to be set aside just for listening.

Effects of Sound Therapy on the infant after birth

Dr Tomatis says the sound of the mother's voice with its familiar tone and rhythm is what provides continuity between the pre-natal and post-natal worlds. The infant is particularly accustomed to the high frequency sounds of the voice as heard in the womb, and therefore has an immediate response of feeling reassured when presented with high frequency sounds filtered to a similar level.

When a child has been born to a mother who has been listening regularly to Sound Therapy, placing the headphones on the baby's ears straight after birth will cause the newborn to immediately stop crying, feeling relieved of the sudden isolation and separateness.

Babies of mothers who listened to Sound Therapy during pregnancy:

It is also beneficial for children to listen to Sound Therapy as they grow and it facilitates their development of communication and languages skills.

How to use Sound Therapy

Expectant mothers can put the headphones on their own ears to enjoy the benefits of listening to a Sound Therapy program, or can place headphones over their belly for their unborn child to listen.

Once the child is born, the easiest way for a newborn to listen is through extra small SleepPhones while being supervised by a parent.

Sound Therapy can be used while sleeping or awake - the player with headphones is handsfree, so its use should not interrupt your day to day activities.

These Sound Therapy programs are clinically proven, used in hundreds of clinics for over 60 years, and available in a portable format for over 25 years.

Family Program

Which Sound Therapy International Program should I use?

For families, the best Sound Therapy program to use is the Family Program, with programs for children as they grow and adults as well as resources to help your child's development.

We recommend adding on extra small SleepPhones for babies; make sure the volume is very soft before putting the phones on your child's ears.

Get started with Sound Therapy now!

I listened to Sound Therapy during the 2nd half of my first pregnancy, and throughout my second one. Both pregnancies went smoothly, especially the second, where I worked up until the week before the birth.
Both my girls are very quiet and placid. I've had complete strangers come up to me when we are out and about and complement me on how well behaved they are. My father has also commented that when he takes my niece to the shops with him, she runs around wanting to look at and touch everything, whereas mine will sit quietly in the stroller.
I have also had other mothers of children the same ages as mine express surprise at how my girls have been able to sit quietly and amuse themselves from a very young age.
The other thing that has struck me is how musical they both are. We had a friend over for dinner when Ariana was 5 months old, and had some music on in the background. We sat Ariana in her new high chair at the table with us so she could be a part of our gathering, and she immediately started hitting one hand on the tray, perfectly in time with the music! And little Eva dances to anything vaguely resembling music. When we go to the shops, she starts bopping along as we pass shops that have music playing in them. They are both very alert to music.
Simone Carot Collins
Perth, Australia
November 2008
Mother of 2 girls

Want more information?

Sound Therapy book

Want to learn more before trying Sound Therapy?

The book Sound Therapy: Music to Recharge Your Brain details the history of Sound Therapy and how sound can be used to calm the nervous system and accelerate auditory development.

Updated in late 2009, it includes the most recent updates on related research include neuroplasticity.

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