Prenatal Development & Music

There is a great segment on Prenatal Development by Richard Parncutt.

I've attached the full chapter but here are some highlights I found interesting and inspirational to the use of a Ritmo product where music is shared with the mother and child.  Particularly the conclusion recommendations.  

Infants have a wide range of skills that can be described as musical.

What is the origin of those skills? This considers the possibility that they are—at least in part—learned before birth, as the fetus becomes familiar with the internal sound patterns of its mother’s body and associates these patterns with her physical and emotional state. The chapter begins by presenting background information about the fetal sound environment and musically relevant fetal abilities and behaviours that may be related to musical abilities as they emerge after birth. It goes on to consider the question of how to evaluate and reconcile conflicting research findings on prenatal musicality, and concludes with specific, tentative recommendations for expectant mothers or parents interested in the musical development of their fetus. The chapter aims to give readers background material in the controversial area of prenatal musical psychology, so that they can make informed decisions about the validity of published claims for themselves.

The concluding recommendations:

The following recommendations can be made to expectant mothers wishing to support their unborn child’s musical development. Because the empirical evidence is incomplete, the recommendations are necessarily tentative and intuitive.

• General health

Promote general fetal development by eating and exercising wisely. A chronic lack of important nutrients can restrict fetal growth and permanently affect cardiovascular, endocrine, and metabolic systems (Bertram & Hanson, 2002).

• Stress

Restrict stress to reasonable limits. Recent research (cited above) has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated that excessive maternal stress is bad for the fetus. Conversely, mild stress is normal and may even promote development (DiPietro, 2004).

• Auditory health

Minimize the chance of hearing problems by avoiding infections. The most common cause of prenatal hearing loss is viral infection by cytomegalovirus or rubella. In Western countries, rubella has become rare due to vaccination (Lagasse et al., 2000). As it is unclear whether prenatal noise affects postnatal hearing, avoid long-term exposure to high sound levels in discos or factories. The fetus may be affected primarily by the stress you feel when exposed to loud sounds; the noise itself may be secondary.

• Music

Listen to and play a lot of music—provided you enjoy the music yourself. The more music the fetus hears, the more it will learn about it, at least in the sense of storing

pitch-time patterns in memory. Maternal enjoyment may also promote the develop-
ment of positive emotional associations to music, and is certainly more important than arbitrary aesthetic judgements of musicologists; ‘classical’ music is not necessarily better (cf. Cook, 1998). However, do not force yourself to play or listen to music, as stress is problematic (see above) and negative connotations may cancel out the positive effect of neutral exposure. Avoid very loud music (see above), but remember that moderately quiet music will be inaudible to the fetus. Some researchers claim that music with a clear beat is preferable and that you should listen to the same music regularly, but the evidence for this is weak.

• Singing

If you enjoy singing, sing. The quality of your singing (e.g., in the sense of staying in tune or in key) doesn’t matter: your fetus is very accommodating! Nor does it matter whether you sing, speak, or something in between. If it helps you to imagine that your fetus is listening, and this makes music making (and listening) more enjoy- able, OK—but be aware that the fetus is unable to reflect on what it hears. Regardless of its prenatal effect, singing to your fetus can give you a headstart on bonding with your baby (Fridman, 2000) and get you into the habit of singing lullabies after the birth, which is musically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially beneficial (cf. Chapter 2, this volume).

• Living

Paradoxically, the best way to promote a child’s musical ability before its birth may be to do nothing specifically musical at all. Just eat, sleep, walk, talk, and experience emotional ups and downs as usual. All these activities produce sound patterns that stimulate the prenatal development of hearing, auditory pattern recognition, and the emotional connotations of sound patterns that underlie music.


Prenatal Development.pdf

March 05, 2014 by Brad Sorock