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Chanting, toning, music and childbirth

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As well as being a vocal student of Dr Ria Keen, I am a Childbirth & Parenting Educator. I have two passions in life - one is singing, and the other is teaching parents, and through my teaching I have increased the confidence of many women and their birth partners over the past 17 years. What has been fascinating, as I have learnt more about music and singing, is finding the links between music and childbirth. We know that babies in the womb hear music and recognise familiar pieces of music after birth - we know that babies in the womb touch their mouths and suck their thumbs and fingers, making mouthing movements that prepare them for eating, drinking, speech and, if encouraged by parents, singing. Mothers hum or sing lullabys and nursery rhymes,and talk to their babies and children in a higher pitched "sing-song" voice.

I recently read about women in a part of East Africa, who make a song for their unborn child before it is even conceived, this song is sung to the baby during pregnancy, during birth, during important events; and at the end of life this individual "lifesong" is sung by friends and family as the individual dies. We have, certainly in the UK I believe, lost this link with music and life, although I do know that one woman I taught did sing her way through labour!

But what I want to do is encourage women to begin to use sound during labour as a coping technique. There is much written about sound as a healing agent, and I watched a television programme recently where a woman in America used tibetan sound bowls during labour for coping with pain. Although some women become very quiet and "into" themselves during labour, many other make sounds particularly as labour becomes more painful or harder work. What I want to do is use these sounds productively by encouraging women to find their own resonance - beginning by humming, and then moving onto maybe chanting mantras they have made themselves, or just relying on toning with or without visualisation. Don Campbell has written widely about the use of voice and music to heal - and in his Creating Inner Harmony book, he uses vowel sounds as an aid to toning and links each vowel sound to a particular visualisation.

So this is where I am at the moment - knowing what I would like to do, knowing very little about it, but very excited about this embryonic thing that I just feel inside I would love to do. Everyone on this site is so very very experienced - and I have so little experience and knowledge about the voice, but if anyone has any thoughts or advice on how I could move forward and grow my embryo I would love to hear from you!

TMV Staff

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