I Sang Through Labor to Manage the Pain


Dr. Fohrman also suggested that singing may serve as a diversion. “When a person is singing, they’re in a state where they have to tap into other creative areas of their brain,” he said. “It’s a distraction from other sensory input which helps them to relax.”

According to some experts on the history of music, singing during child birth crosses cultures and might even go back centuries.

In the Middle Ages, women recited poems, religious prayers and chants to aid in labor and delivery, and Sephardic Jews of the 16th and 17th centuries sang songs as part of a childbirth ritual. In some instances, women in Ghana sing to God during labor and Hindu mothers sing “sohar,” or joyous songs as part of a ritual performed during the birth of a son. In the Igbo society in Nigeria, mothers and villagers also sing songs during childbirth.

I even tracked down several videos of women singing through their births online.

Jenny Mercein, 47, an actor and head of the undergraduate acting program at Tulane University in New Orleans, said that she used the melodic voice exercises she learned in her training as an actress to modulate her breath and ride the waves of contractions during the birth of her daughter in 2016. “I sang ‘ha humma’ and moved through the scales on that,” she said. “Sometimes I’d intersperse a four-letter word in there, too. I sang the whole time.” According to Mercein, medical staff at her hospital dubbed her “The Singing Mother.”

Mercein later teamed up with Kris Danford, 40, an associate professor of voice and speech at the Penn State School of Theatre (who had also relied on voice techniques during her own child’s birth), to explore the role the voice may play in managing the pain and stress of childbirth.

Together, they published a qualitative, anecdotal study in 2017, which detailed the experiences of several mothers, one of whom recalled that doing something relaxing and unrelated to labor, such as singing, took her mind off her labor pain.

Elena Skoko, 47, a singer and writer currently living in Croatia, sang during her child’s delivery and documented it in her book, “Memoirs of a Singing Birth.” “The singing would measure the length of the contraction,” she told me. “I would sing one verse and it would all be OK, the peak of the contraction would fade. It helped me manage the time and the fear.”