Here’s why you should definitely pump up the jams and play music during labor…plus we share our go-to playlists!
Are you a music fan, mama? I know when it comes to giving birth there are a million other things on your mind, but believe me, when you find yourself laboring for hours on end, having music to help you stay focused on the task at hand can make a huge difference.
And don’t just take my word for it. A study at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada asked women to create a playlist of preferred music during pregnancy, listen to it daily, and also utilize it during labor. Every woman in the study reported that it helped distract her from the pain and feel significantly more relaxed, leading the academics behind the study to conclude that “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.”
When I took HypnoBirthing three years ago, music was up there with soft lighting and aromatherapy for important ways to set a calm, peaceful, relaxed tone during labor. I think there is a time and place for this, however I found there were definitely other moments during labor when I wanted to be pumped up – particularly during the last hour or so. I’ll never forget one mama telling us how a Bhangra and Bollywood-heavy soundtrack kept her focused for the final six hours of labor (after she’d dealt with contractions for five straight days with barely any sleep!).
Maybe it’s just my personality, but I naturally found myself gravitating toward psyche-up music in the weeks leading up to labor, and ultimately adapted parts of my tried-and-tested running playlist – after all, you’re just trading one form of cardio for another, and in my experience the louder and more intense the music, the more you’re distracted from the pain, whether it’s sprint intervals or contractions!
Certain songs that I’d always loved anyway – Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” comes to mind most prominently – took on a new significance. Each time I listened to it I pictured my active baby girl turning flips in my stomach (just as we saw her doing during ultrasounds). I was hardly surprised when she seemed to love listening to it in the car after she was born!
Ultimately, I listened to a decent amount of my mellow playlist (more on that below) during the early hours of labor. However, although music wasn’t playing at the exact moment my daughter was born, I did have one of the songs from my psyche-up playlist – O.A.R.’s “Hey Girl” – running through my head during those final pushes. With the chorus
Hey, girl! Come with me and let yourself go…
It seemed pretty apt. To this day, whenever I hear it I get a huge grin on my face…and then I tear up!
Anyway, here are my two playlists – Psyche-Up and Mellow – along with some notes (because I am nothing if not a giant nerd about music. High Fidelity is my jam). In all honesty, my mellow playlist was about 85% Grateful Dead songs because they are my go-to when I’m feeling stressed (for instance, LOVE listening to them on airplanes), but I’ve weeded most of that out for the general audience. Hopefully you can find some inspo from the songs below, mama: anything with a heavy beat that drowns out distractions is a winner in my book!
Labor Psyche-Up Playlist
Robyn – Dancing on my own
The Proclaimers – (I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles: You know the love you feel for your child is unlike any other when you would literally do this for them.
Wiz Khalifa – No Sleep: With a line like “We gonna party all night!” I figured this would put me in a positive frame of mind for a potentially long labor.
Icona Pop (feat. Charli XCX) – I Love It: This is that fast, pulsating beat I was talking about that can drown out everything else.
Madonna – Express Yourself: Who doesn’t feel a bit more emboldened after listening to this Madonna girl-power anthem?
B.o.B. (feat. Rivers Cuomo) – Magic: With the line “I’ve got the magic in me (I’ve got the magic baby!)”, this fast, bubbly song put a smile on my face throughout my pregnancy.
Young MC – Bust a Move: Yet another great party/dance song, and I hoped my baby would take the hint and do just this.
Toots and the Maytals (feat. Eric Clapton) – Pressure Drop: Another irresistible dancing song.
Grateful Dead – Turn On Your Love Light: Perhaps the liveliest, most electric of any Grateful Dead song, and I liked imagining I was turning on my love light to let baby know it was OK to come out.
Dee Light – Groove is in the Heart: Just an all-time great dance party song.
La Roux – Bulletproof (Manhattan Clique remix): One of my very favorite running songs – you just can’t help but push yourself to go faster when the chorus comes on!
Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf: Another one of my running faves, and hilariously this song quieted Maggie like no other during those crazy newborn crying jags.
Reel Big Fish – Beer: This high-energy ska classic has a special place in my heart thanks to memories of super fun concerts in a previous life. Plus it provided motivation for what would be waiting for me on the other side of labor!
O.A.R. – Hey Girl: The version from the album In Between Now and Then has a little riff on “Hush little baby” that slays me every time.
Labor MELLOW Playlist
Just a few quick notes on this one: you can never go wrong with Mozart when you’re looking to mellow out…I always thought Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” was kind of cheezy, but the moment I became a parent I suddenly felt like it was speaking directly from my heart. The line “the sky is yours!” is everything I want to convey to my children…“Someday we’ll be together” is such a great song when you’re eagerly visualizing and anticipating the arrival of your baby…Not only does “Cassidy” have some of the most gorgeous lyrics ever written, but it was actually inspired by the beautiful home birth of a baby on a ranch. If I had my way I’d name my son Cassidy but my non-hippie husband wasn’t so keen!