Over the past day or so, there has been a bunch of media attention on a story about Spotify creating a “birth playlist” with the help of NYC-based OB-GYN Dr. Jacques Moritz. The story has been picked up by the Huffington Post, Time, and more. I wanted to weigh in as a board-certified music therapist who has been trained in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth. Part of the work that I do is to help pregnant moms create personalized playlists, as well as provide them with over 40 hours of specially-compiled music playlists that can be used during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
While I think it’s great that Spotify recognizes the power of using music during birth, a one-playlist-for-all approach just doesn’t make sense. Every birth is different, every birthing mother is different, and people’s music choices should be just as unique, varied, and ever-changing as their births are. That is why when I work with a client, we spend several hours together talking about her music preferences, her history with certain songs, and what music she finds the most relaxing, uplifting, and helpful for getting through tough emotions.
Another aspect of music during birth that I am mindful of is that the music should create an atmosphere of comfort, familiarity, calm and relaxation. Songs should flow easily from one to the next, and there should not be a lot of variance within a single playlist. That is one reason why Spotify’s birth playlist may not work for many women – not only is it not personalized to fit each woman’s preferences, but the songs are from a variety of genres and have different tempos. When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind.
"When songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, the birthing mother’s mind can relax into a trance-like state, and if there are dramatic changes from song to song she can be jolted back into her conscious mind."
I work with my clients during the months before their birth, and the music is an integral part of our therapeutic work together. My clients practice moving and relaxing to the music many, many times before going into labor so that their bodies and minds are familiar with the music and relax easily and quickly when that music is played during labor. I attend their birth as their doula and music therapist, and am constantly assessing the environment and putting on music that will assist them in focusing, relaxing and feeling at ease. While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t give them the one-on-one, personalized therapeutic relationship that my clients get with me, and it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor.
"While a standard Spotify birth playlist may be helpful for some women, it doesn’t allow for changes and fluctuations in the music during labor."
As a trained music therapist, one of the most important pieces of knowledge that I bring with me to all my work is that music is very powerful, and it can sometimes have negative effects on people – it can trigger strong emotions, bring back difficult memories, and it’s psychological and physiological effects on the mind and body of a birthing woman can slow or stall the progress of labor.
I think every birthing mom who wants to have music during her birth should be able to do that, and I encourage all the moms I work with to create playlists that help them feel relaxed and empowered. While it is a one-size-fits-all approach that I don't think will work for many women, I do applaud Spotify and Dr. Moritz for looking at the benefits of music during labor, and I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth or my Birth Music Consultation services to get in touch with me at Beth@HeartTonesDoula.com.