Irish team studying benefits of lullabies

  • Deborah Condon

The benefits of mothers singing lullabies during their pregnancy are being studied by Irish researchers.

According to a team from the University of Limerick (UL), pregnancy and birth can be difficult periods, with many women suffering from stress and worry. However medical treatment is not always suitable because of concerns that taking medication may harm the baby.

For this reason doctors and midwives are interested in finding other ways to reduce pregnancy stress, such as singing. The aim of this study is to look at the effect of different strategies in relieving stress in pregnancy.

The research team at UL is a collaboration between the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Graduate Entry Medical School, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. The study involves women recruited through Limerick Regional Maternity's antenatal education classes.

"The intersection of performing arts research and medical research is a rich area of exploration. This study is a good example of the increasingly creative relationship between arts research at the Irish World Academy and the rapidly growing Medical School at UL," commented Prof Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

The researchers pointed out that the calming effect of music may be attributable to the fact that the normal tempo of music falls somewhere between 60 and 80, when measured on the metronome. The average measure is around 72 which corresponds with the average adult human heartbeat. There is also considerable additional evidence to suggest that listening to music and singing benefits both the mother and infant.

The participants must fill in a questionnaire that measures stress. They are then assigned to one of two groups, with one group being asked to learn some lullabies. Six weeks after the birth, the women will be asked to fill in the same questionnaire to see if there are any differences in their levels of stress.

The mothers are being taught traditional Irish and international songs, including ‘Close your eyes sweet love' and ‘Go to sleep my little baby'.

"The benefits of this study so far reflect the truly collaborative nature of the project. A sense of community support and engagement is built up through the research team and the expectant mothers. We look forward to continuing the collaboration between mothers, musicians, midwives and medics in the future," said Prof Paul Finucane of the Graduate Entry Medical School.

Data analysis is ongoing at present and the findings will be presented in the near future.

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