Some websites say to avoid music like heavy metal or rap during pregnancy and only play gentle music (like classical) to not startle your unborn baby. I’ve seen references to “research” but I can’t find any real studies about the effects of listening to dissonant, “harsh” or atonal music during pregnancy.
Based on science and research, there are a number of benefits to listening to whatever music you want in pregnancy – even rap, metal, or dance/EDM (if those are your preferences).
- Baby may not always be able to hear the music you’re listening to. There’s a lot of noise inside during pregnancy (from mom’s heart beat, blood flow, intestines and other body noises). Some studies show this as loud as 90 dB (a hair dryer or kitchen blender).
- Unborn babies adapt to sounds. A mom’s cell phone can startle her baby – but over time the baby gets used to it. (This study still advised carrying phones and beepers in a chest pocket or purse as to not disrupt the baby.)
- At 32 weeks, a baby sleeps 90-95% of the time. That’s 1.2 hours a day total (spread over 24 hours). Close to birth, it’s 85-90%. Even if your loud music wakes up the baby, it probably won’t keep him/her awake for long.
- An expecting mom is very aware of her baby’s movements. During pregnancy with my son, I could tell the difference when he was startled versus excited. When I was at work listening to loud audio (as part of my job), my son would get excited by low frequencies – especially a low male voice, bass, or loud drums.
- If your goal is for baby to listen to music, low frequencies reach the womb easier than high frequencies. Music like R&B, hip-hop, or EDM may actually have more low frequency information than other music which means more can be heard by baby.
- If mom is feeling relaxed, that can have a positive affect on an unborn baby. Babies can feel and remember their mom’s emotional state. If mom doesn’t like classical music, is it going to be relaxing for her? If listening to heavy metal makes a pregnant mom happy and she doesn’t perceive any distress from the baby, power to you, Mom. It might even be putting the baby to sleep if Mom is dancing or moving around a lot.
- Rap and heavy metal may help calm a colicky baby after birth. The rhythm and noise may be familiar to what they experienced in the womb.
If you’re pregnant and want to listen to music, the best thing you can do is listen for your own enjoyment. Chances are, your baby will enjoy it if you are, too. If you’re concerned about loudness or disrupting your baby, turn it down or listen on headphones (on your ears… not your belly).
Related: Do belly headphones work?