Music may help soothe prenatal stress

Pregnant women may be able to ease their stress and anxiety by simply settling back with some relaxing music, a new study suggests.

Taiwanese researchers found that when pregnant women listened to relaxing music for 30 minutes each day, their scores on standard measures of stress, anxiety and depression were reduced.

The findings suggest that music could offer a simple, do-it-yourself way to manage prenatal stress, the researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

“Pregnancy is a unique and stressful period for many expectant mothers and they suffer anxiety and depression because of the long time period involved,” Dr. Chung-Hey Chen, study co-author, said in a statement.

“Any intervention that reduces these problems is to be welcomed,” added Chen, who is now at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. The study took place at Kaohsiung Medical University.

Chen’s team randomly assigned 236 pregnant women to either a music group or a group that stayed with standard prenatal care alone. Women in the music group were asked to listen to any of four CDs for 30 minutes per day over two weeks; the music included classical, lullabies, nature sounds and children’s music.

At the beginning and end of the study, all women completed standard questionnaires on stress, anxiety and depression symptoms.

After 2 weeks, the researchers found that the women in the music group showed a general improvement on all three fronts, while stress, anxiety and depression scores remained virtually unchanged in the comparison group.

Music may provide “sensory input” that affects the nervous and hormonal systems, which in turn could calm the physiological response to daily stress, according to Chen’s team.

Whatever the mechanisms at work, the researchers say, music may offer a simple, inexpensive way for women to deal with the stress of pregnancy.

“The value of music therapy is slowly being realized by nurses in a number of clinical settings,” Chen said, “and we hope that our findings will encourage healthcare professionals to consider it when treating pregnant women.”

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Nursing, October 2008.

Provided by ArmMed Media