Headphones for Labor and Delivery?


Recently, several people have asked me about the possibility of have some of my pre-programmed surgical headphones programmed for labor and deliver. I think it’s a great idea because it could keep the labor progressing. The phenomenon of musical entrainment is powerful and the body responds to the tempo and mood of any piece of music!

I’ve always that Ravel’s “Bolero” would be a good piece for labor and delivery. What do you think?

By |February 11, 2010|Uncategorized|6 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Alice Cash is one of the world’s few clinical musicologists. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, she brings to her work over 40 years of professional experience as a college professor, clinical therapist, solo and chamber music performer and composer. Since 1990, Dr. Cash has been in the field of Music Medicine and conducted clinical research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, under the guidance of Dr. Joel Elkes, Dr. Leah Dickstein, and Dr. Rif El-Mallakh. Her clinical work at the University of Louisville lead to her career in music medicine. In addition to her work with the University of Louisville, Dr. Cash lead the development of using music a hospital setting at Baptist East Hospital, Louisvile, KY. She has founded 3 companies: Healing Music Enterprises, Surgical Serenity Solutions and Crescent Hill Counseling.


  1. Nonie Hudnall April 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    This is fascinating. It has worked for me!

  2. Dr Alice H Cash April 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Hi Nonie, Would you be willing to write a blog post about your experience using music during surgery, i.e., what the procedure was, what music you listened to and how it was delivered, and what you think the benefits were compared to if you had not had the music. This would be so interesting to the readers of this blog!

  3. John Lawrence MMT, NMT, MTA June 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    There is plenty of evidence and articles showing benefits to listening to music during labour and delivery in the music therapy literature. There is also a sub-specialty in music therapy practice called NICU-MT for preemies, which resulted in the commercialization of a product called PAL – Pacifier Activated Lullaby. For more information, I suggest looking at the AMTA website: http://www.musictherapy.org

    • Dr Alice H Cash June 7, 2013 at 2:58 am - Reply

      Thanks, John. I’ve been following the development of the PAL for a long time and believe that it is such a good idea! Of course the PAL is for the infant, to reinforce the sucking instinct and assist with weight gain. My thought with the headphones is that when Mom is in mid to late labour, the headphones can be programmed with music that will tend to entrain her body rhythms and keep labor progressing at a good clip! When I was in labor with my last child, some nursing students came into my room to observe the “Bradley Method” od childbirth and while talking to them, my labor completely stopped! Labor is indeed hard work and probably the laboring woman should not be asked to chat with anyone at all. The headphones help create that safe cocoon and provide the rhythmic pulse to keep labor progressing through the use of rhythmic entrainment! Make sense?

  4. John Lawrence MMT, NMT, MTA June 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    The music has to be personalized to the mother, and you need to be prepared to change or alter based on her experience at the time. That is the advantage of having a music therapist and/or music present. Certainly, music can be useful during the early stages, as a distraction and boredom reliever if labour is not progressing quickly. During active labour, music can decrease the perception of some of the pain and it can indeed support breathing and pushing when the time comes.

    Another, lessor know use of music is to turn the baby in-utero. By 18 weeks gestation, the auditory system of the baby is fully developed and hence they can hear sound. Instead of being forced to have a C-section, due to the breach position of the baby, or enduring external rotation, place headphones or a music source close to the pelvis and the baby will often turn towards the sound. My ex and I used this procedure with positive results within 10 minutes, confirmed by the GP the next day. Indeed, at birth, the head is the heaviest part of the baby’s body so they are unlikely to return to a breach position. (Disclosure: results may vary)

Leave A Comment