Music therapy can be effective with many populations, but have you ever thought about how music therapy can be incorporated into childbirth? In “Effectiveness of Music […] in Reducing Pain and Anxiety among Primigravid Women during Active Phase of First Stage of Labor” Karkal, Kharde, and Dhumale examine if music can be a treatment for pain during labor.
Labor pain is something all pregnant women experience. Anxiety and fear of labor pain can contribute towards the level of pain they experience during childbirth. An epidural is often used for labor pain, but non-pharmacological treatment are available as well, such as breathing techniques, movement, massage, acupressure, hot/cold therapy, aromatherapy, guided imagery, and music.
This study used a treatment group (the music) and control group (regular treatment). The women were randomly placed in either group, with 30 women in each group. Women reported pain between 1 (minimal pain) and 10 (maximum pain) and anxiety between 1 (minimum anxiety) and 100 (maximum anxiety). The study did not report how or what music was played in the study, but it is assumed that recorded music was used. While this study is not music therapy (due to a music therapist not being involved), a significant decrease in both pain and anxiety was found in the music treatment group (from an average of 9.45 pain to 4.16 pain and 61.58 anxiety to 28.26 anxiety). The control group experienced stagnant levels of pain throughout their first term of labor experience (from 9.55 pain to 9.68 pain and 61.87 anxiety to 61.87 anxiety).
This study shows that listening to music can be an effective treatment during the first stage of labor. It also demonstrates that the term music therapy is often incorrectly used in studies. Advocacy for the profession is important, but this study shows us that if music alone can be so effective during labor, involving a music therapist could mean more individualized and further effective treatment.
By Jessica Fletcher, MM, MT-BC
Karkal, E., Kharde, S., & Dhumale, H. (2017). Effectiveness of Music Therapy in Reducing Pain and Anxiety among Primigravid Women during Active Phase of First Stage of Labor. International Journal of Nursing Education,9(2), 57-60. doi:10.5958/0974-9357.2017.00036.8