Meli Music Baby! Research

In the early 1980s, Music Therapists began to explore the use of “audioanalgesia” (sound for discomfort relief) in the music therapy process in working with labor and delivery patients.  Music therapists assist patients in the clinical application of music in suppressing the discomfort response, but can also work with patients in deeper psychological and emotional ways. The process of “music therapy” differs from “music medicine” based on the establishment of a relationship between therapist and patient.   Music therapists specifically design and develop unique treatments for each patient based on the patient’s need and condition.

In a study of 14 couples who participated in a Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth program it was found that music therapy was very beneficial during the labor and delivery process (DiCamillo, 1999). The use of music during labor and delivery was most effective in supporting (rhythmic) breathing (86%), remaining calm (86%), focus (71%), and in discomfort management (64%). Women who practiced the techniques at home and who were familiar with their music felt in control and had more positive birth experiences.  Many of the women (64%), felt in control most of the time during labor and delivery.  Imagery techniques were effective when paired with the music, and (71%) stated that these techniques were the most beneficial.  All of the women (100%) felt well supported during labor and delivery. All participants (100%) stated that the music therapy program enhanced family bonding with the baby during the immediate post-partum period.

In another case study by DiCamillo (2000), Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth was found to greatly enhance the birth outcome of an emergency pre-term delivery of an infant (33 weeks gestation) due to the mother’s condition of severe pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure). Due to the mother’s precarious medical condition while in labor, the physician recommended against epidural anesthesia. The mother was able to have an unmedicated, vaginal birth which is what she desired using only music for discomfort relief. The baby was breathing on its own at birth and did not require ventilation. Both mother and baby are doing fine today.

*DiCamillo, M. (1999).  A bio-psycho-social model of music therapy assisted childbirth:  an integrative approach to working with families.  Doctoral Dissertation, Pepperdine University

*DiCamillo, M. (2000).  Music therapy assisted childbirth:  a case study of an emergency high-risk pre-term delivery due to pregnancy-induced-hypertension.  International Music Society for Prenatal Development Review, 12, 2, 8-13.

Clark, M.E. McCorkle, R. R. & Williams, S. B.  (1981).  Music therapy assisted labor and delivery.  Journal of Music Therapy, 28 (2), 88-100.

The field of Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth has been growing and developing during the last twenty years.  This landmark study by Clark, McCorkle, and Williams (1981) was the first published treatment protocol for music therapists for working with labor and delivery patients. Their investigation was a preliminary study of the effectiveness of music for discomfort relief during labor and delivery. They indicated that music serves several functions in the natural childbirth process including:  attention focusing, distraction from discomfort, stimulating pleasure responses, focusing breathing, and as a conditioned stimulus for relaxation.


There were 20 subjects in this study.  Thirteen experimental subjects received 6 pre-natal music training sessions with a music therapist.  Seven control group subjects did not receive the music treatment.  There was an emphasis on music selection and music-assisted relaxation techniques during the treatment sessions.  The experimental group patients each received a stereo cassette tape for home practice in order to become familiar with the relaxation techniques.  The Music Therapist was notified when each subject went into labor and assisted the patients at the hospital.  The therapist played the music continually and relied on it more than verbal contact when the woman was in labor.  During the pushing phase, the tempo, intensity, and energy of the music were increased to give the mothers energy to push.  Special music which was chosen by the parents was played at the time of the delivery and the music concluded when the patient left the delivery room.  After the birth, the music therapist administered a childbirth experience questionnaire to each subject. 


Results indicated that the music group had higher success scores on 5 out of 7 indices of the childbirth process.  A moderate correlation between home practice with the music and successful outcome was also found.  This article also noted the possibility of the Hawthorne effect, stating that perhaps support from a music therapist during labor and delivery may have contributed to successful outcome. Findings suggested that music therapy may successfully contribute to reducing anxiety during childbirth, as well as augment positive feelings of support.


Hanser, S., Larson, S.C. & O’Connell, A.S. (1983).  The effect of music on relaxation of expectant mothers during labor.  Journal of Music Therapy, 20 (2), 50-58.

In 1983, Hanser, Larson, and O’Connell published this study on the use of music to enhance relaxation and decrease discomfort responses in mothers during childbirth. In this study the therapists used music to:  cue rhythmic breathing, assist the mothers in relaxation, prompt positive associations, and help focus attention on the music as a diversion from discomfort and hospital sounds. A small sample of seven Lamaze-trained mothers was used and subjects served as their own controls. Two individual music therapy sessions were conducted with the subjects prior to the birth experiences.  In the first session the music therapist established rapport and determined the musical preferences of the subject.  Prior to the second session the music therapist developed an individualized music program for each patient.  During the second session the subjects were familiarized with their music programs and instructed in relaxation and breathing techniques.


The music therapists attended the births and monitored the music during the experience. During labor each subject received periods of music and non-music and were observed under both conditions. Observations of tension and relaxation in various parts of the body were made and recorded.  Two other relaxation behaviors, breathing and verbalization were observed and recorded as positive, negative, or neutral.  During the delivery phase continuous music was provided which was specially selected by each mother and their coaches.


One week after the delivery each mother was given a post-delivery questionnaire and was asked how the music helped them concentrate, relax, and whether it helped with their rhythmic breathing. Results indicated that all subjects had fewer discomfort responses in the music vs. no-music condition, and that music aided concentration- 86%, relaxation- 71%, cued breathing- 57%, and diverted attention from discomfort- 43%. Coaches and hospital staff also responded well to the music indicating that the music really made a difference and that it made it feel more like home.


Article Reviews by:

Mary DiCamillo, EdD, MT-BC

Sound Birthing Music, LLC Continuing Education Director

Dove Canyon, CA



Research in the 1980’s- 2000’s- exploratory studies; Relaxing music was used in birthing- what did that mean?  How does it work? Programs and studies evolved to help determine how and why MTACB is effective.


Gonzalez (1989) The Music Therapy-Assisted Childbirth program attempts to facilitate 1) a reduction of stress for the working mother-to-be, in preparation for the birthing process, and 2) a more positive interaction between mother and child in the postnatal period. It emphasizes adequate emotional preparation, patient and infant relaxation/ stimulation through frequency and length of music home practice. The program integrates compatible-researched methods and strategies, and new methodology regarding breathing techniques and music.


DiCamillo (1999) proposed a family-systems/bio-psycho-social approach to birthing MTACB Dissertation- Pepperdine University. The Sound Birthing method evolved from this research.             


DiCamillo, M. (2000) Used music effectively in an emergency high risk pre-term delivery due to pregnancy-induced hypertension with excellent outcomes for mother and baby.  MTACB can be used in emergency settings where epidural analgesia is too risky for mother during labor.


Browning (2000) Using Music During Childbirth- Women selected the combination of music and labor support as a helpful coping strategy during labor. All women used the music during labor to help distract them from the pain or their current situation. Conclusion:  The planned use of music by mothers and caregivers can be an aid to prenatal preparation and an important adjunct in pain and stress management during labor and birth.


Sound Birthing (2002) Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth Case Studies:  Five Women, Five Births- Conclusion:  every birth is unique and does not always go according to plan- support is equally as important as the music; one without the other and the experience is not the same.


Fulton (2005) The Effects of Music Therapy on Physiological Measures, Perceived Pain, and Perceived Fatigue of Women in Early Labor- ANOVA revealed self reported pain and fatigue were significantly lower for the music group.


Shu-Chen Chang1, Chung-Hey Chen (2005) This controlled study provides evidence that music therapy can reduce anxiety and create a more satisfying experience for women undergoing cesarean delivery.


Mei-Yueh Chang, Chung-Hey Chen, Kuo-Feng Huang (2008) Effects of music therapy on psychological health of women during pregnancy.  Conclusion:  This controlled trial provides preliminary evidence that two-week music therapy during pregnancy provides quantifiable psychological benefits. Findings: Pregnant women should be encouraged to use MTACB as this cost-effective method of music in their daily life to reduce their stress, anxiety and depression.

What the Websites are saying about MTACB


Roman Music Therapy Services (2013) Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth is an incredible tool for mothers and fathers as they progress through labor and welcome their new little one into their arms and their life. Using music for relaxation, pain management and to facilitate rhythmic breathing brings the expectant parents and the entire childbirth team together. It supports the mother and her birth partner in creating and facilitating the desired birth experience.


Whitwell (2013) Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music- Regular practice is required to receive these benefits. The music is selected from the repertoire of the couple and the music therapist. In addition, through toning and sounding techniques the voice becomes an instrument of self expression and empowerment allowing the mother to creatively express her feelings during the birth process.

History of MTACB - Research Studies and Program Development