Music For Pain Relief During Labor


The day of childbirth for most parents is one of the most important days in their lives. After all,  welcoming your child into your family and home is indeed something to be excited about. However, the process of childbirth is not an easy one for the mother. Mothers have to go through extreme pain while pushing out the baby during birth. In cases of C-section where the baby is delivered surgically, post-labor pain is there and mothers take time in recovering from the procedure. The extreme pain felt during childbirth can cause physical and emotional trauma on delivering women. Though the pain is inevitable, many measures have been taken to put mothers at ease to some extent. One such development is the use of music during both pregnancy and labor, to relieve extreme pain.

It almost sounds counterintuitive to try to groove to music when you’re undergoing the extreme pain of trying to push your little baby out from your nether regions. However, there’s a whole science behind it and how it works (1). So, if you’re having doubts about music for pain relief during labor, read on because you’re in for a huge surprise!

Music During Labor: How It Works

Music During Labor How It Works

Image: Shutterstock

Enter a labor room, and you’ll know that the only thing audible will be the mother’s screams with the occasional exhortation from the doctors asking to “push, breathe, push”. Although this sounds dramatic, it is somewhat similar to what goes down, especially when it is natural birth. So, where exactly does music fit into this picture, and how is it going to help?

Music can calm you down. Researchers have been working on this, exploring various possibilities as to how it can be helpful with labor. And their research has shown that music can have an impact on your brain. During labor, music may come in handy by changing the way your brain is thinking at that time. Pain is the focus, but when music is played, it can trick the brain into assuming that what it is witnessing isn’t all that unpleasant. Music directly impacts the higher centers in your central nervous system. When this interaction takes place, certain areas are affected, such as the parts of your brain associated with emotions and memory. When these parts of the brain are activated, what you witness as painful, might then be perceived as less painful (1). Music, in fact, alters the perception and can inject the required emotional connection to the pain making you more resilient to the pain.

Additionally, music could stimulate the pituitary gland in your brain too. The pituitary gland houses several hormones, and music could trigger the release of specific relief providing hormones such as endorphins or serotonin (2). Both endorphins and serotonin are at times referred to as “pleasure hormones”, and can have a soothing and relaxing effect on the body. They are like painkiller tablets secreted naturally in our bodies.

Is Music Effective?

Is Music Effective

We’re not going to downplay the ordeal you face during childbirth. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a natural birth or a C-section, childbirth is an overwhelming process, and it can be painful. Relaxation techniques such as music therapy during childbirth can help you with the process, but it will not completely eradicate pain and discomfort (3).

In case you’re confused about how music can help during C-section, here’s how: some women opt for regional anesthesia during their C-section procedure. Playing music can help alleviate stress and anxiety. When stress and anxiety peak during any surgical procedure, there can be complications such as increased blood pressure or heart rate. Music could, to an extent, help with this (4). The calming effect music has on people often has a direct effect on normalizing their breathing. Steady breathing too goes a long way in bringing relaxation and calmness to the body. So, don’t forget to take some good long breaths while you’re enjoying your playlist!

Choosing The Right Music Is Important


Image: Shutterstock

Now that we’ve established that music could provide some much-needed relief during labor, let’s make one thing clear — the kind of music you play makes a difference too! Yes, music is subjective, and you may not like what another expecting mommy swears by, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind while choosing your labor room playlist. This is because you won’t be experiencing the same thing from the start of your labor through the finish.

Labor is an exhausting process that has its own ups and downs. The beginning of labor allows you to prepare for the real deal, and this requires a different state of mind, as opposed to the end of labor, where you need a more energized state of mind. As we said before, music can influence your state of mind, so the kind of music you will be listening to at the beginning of labor will be very different from what you listen to at the end of the labor process.

It is best to opt for music that you enjoy listening to during early labor, ones that can distract you. The next stage to hit you will be active labor, and during this time, you will be required to stay calm, so listen to music that has a calming effect on you (1).

The next stage of labor is the end of it when you’re about to deliver your baby. This requires you to push, and it can be the most crucial and the most challenging phase. For this, it is recommended that you listen to music that has high energy (1).

Let’s not forget about the few hours after delivery, as this is crucial too. Your body has gone through so much, and it can help to listen to music that can soothe you at this time (1). Playing some gentle classical music with instruments that go soft on the ears like flute and harp, would be a great way to relax post-childbirth.

Music during labor to manage pain is a less explored area, and more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the impact and benefits it can offer. However, if you feel like this is something you want to try your hand at, go ahead and talk with your doctor to see how it can be done and if it is something you can do. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Effect Of Music Interventions On Anxiety During Labor: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis Of Randomized Controlled Trials
  2. The Effects Of A Music And Singing Intervention During Pregnancy On Maternal Well-being And Mother-infant Bonding: A Randomised, Controlled Study
  3. Relaxation Techniques For Pain Management In Labour
  4. Effects Of Music Intervention During Caesarean Delivery On Anxiety And Stress Of The Mother A Controlled, Randomised Study
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