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Pregnancy and Voice - for everyone, but especially actresses and singers - please read and help me and my dissertation

(33 Posts)
waitinggirl Thu 10-Jul-08 12:21:02

hello all!

now, this may all sound very hippyish, but please bear with me. and apologies for such a long post...

i am 16 weeks with my first baby and have discovered MN, which is scarily addictive. it is now threatening to take over my life and ruin the final 12,000 words of my MA dissertation which I am supposed to be writing over the next 9 weeks.

i am an actress who is retraining to be a voicecoach/teacher and i am doing an MA in Voice Studies. i have now changed my dissertation topic to pregnancy and the voice (this way i can combine surfing MN and count it as work!)

i would like any information people may have about any changes they hav noticed to their voices during pregnancy (and for those of you who have had children already, if there were any changes post birth. for exmaple, a friend of mine who is a singer told me she lost the upper ranges of her singing voice for a few months after childbirth). it may be hard for people who aren't used to monitoring their voices, but any changes will be really useful for me.

things i am looking at: how was your breathing affected? did nausea affect your breathing/speaking/singing? did you lose your voice either during pregnancy or after childbirth? did your voice change pitch/become richer/thinner/lose/gain power? do any of you consciously sing/hum to your unborn babies? do you feel that is a way to connect to them? do you sing to your children now?

re: childbirth - i cannot imagine what childbirth is going to be like, but i imagine it is a pretty vocal time and how important vocalising must be in pushing the baby out. were your dps disturbed/distressed/frightened by the noises you made? (no one's got a recording they wouldn't mind me analysing, have they?)

also, i went to my first pregnancy yoga class last week - it was fab, but as someone who uses their voice a lot, i was frustrated at the lack of vocalising - would anybody else welcome a pregnancy voice class?

if more was known about the potential of resonance and the vibrations in the human voice as a means to connect with their unborn child, would people want to go to a pregnancy voiceclass (which would combine yoga style exercises as well as some voicework)?

hopefully i will get some responses and will be able to make a start at the dissertation -once i've gathered some information, i might like to contact people personally by email/phone, but that is way in the future.

absolutely any responses/ideas very gratefully received
thanks
waitinggirl

MiniMarmite Thu 10-Jul-08 13:18:59

Hi Waitinggirl

I'm a lazy singer but have kept up my singing lessons throughout my pregnancy. I'm now 34 weeks and cutting my lessons down to 30 minutes from next week as I get a bit lightheaded if I sing and stand for too long!

I have found that my upper and lower ranges have extended so I've possibly gained an octave overall which is quite exciting but of relatively little use given that my breathing has gone completely up the creek due to lack of available space! I find this when I am talking too though and often get out of breath. I'm sure professional singers deal with this a lot better that me though!

I like to think that I am making a connection with my baby when I am singing and understand that they hear lower sounds best, especially earlier on. Mostly he just ignores me and carries on sleeping though grin.

Hope this is vaguely helpful and good luck with your MA smile.

Trebuchet Thu 10-Jul-08 13:24:04

Hi

Actress and singer, I don't sing professionally as much as I did but have found that I have bugger all breathing technique anymore since my stomach muscles parted. PG again and finding that I cannot make it through a phrase without sneaking in a breath. Top notes are clearer and stronger, up to a top Bb with vib going through the roof, but my break is more obvious now between chest and head and belt not what it was.....sad

Hope this helps.

Trebuchet Thu 10-Jul-08 13:25:56

Think a preg voice class is a great idea, asyou are stronger on an out breath and vocalising could help you to take a longer exhalation and so extend strength.

PrettyCandles Thu 10-Jul-08 13:31:52

An interesting subject. I'm not a trained singer, though I love to make music. I have sung in performance, as well as to my children and for my own pleasure.

During morning sickness, I could not sing, sometimes I struggled to speak at all. The vibration of my voice was unbearable when I was nauseated.

In the last trimester I struggled to breath well enough to sing. Dd was born just before Xmas, and I remember that I could not join in with carol singing. As soon as she was born I was able to sing again. I think it was purely a matter of squished-up internal organs, as it got worse as I got bigger (at first I could sing standing but not sitting, then I could not sing either way, then, when the baby dropped, the pressue eased a lot, but I could only sing quietly, not belt anything out). As to the quality of my voice - no idea!

This was the same with each of my three pregnancies.

Before I had children I really struggled to sing. I don't have a good ear, and was humiliated so many times as a child, that I think I had a emotional and mental block about singing in any situation where my voice could be heard alone. My singing ability has certainly improved through having children, as I sing a lot now. But my range has reduced. I think that is because I sing on my own now, whereas before I would sing with other singers, or with a teacher of some sort.

My first child showed no particular response to music, though he has learned to love it, particularly in movement. But my second and third children were constantly exposed to music, as I was singing with or to the older child/ren, and playing the same music over and over again (you'll find out that LOs love repetition grin), and it was obvious from the earliest days, that they were soothed by the sound of my singing. And it didn't matter whether I sang well or badly, as long as the melody was recognisable.

I never sang to bond while they were still inside me, but I certainly sang and hummed to them when very close together - lying on my chest, say.

HTH

hanaflowerisnothana Thu 10-Jul-08 13:35:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrettyCandles Thu 10-Jul-08 13:38:28

Oh, yes, you wanted to know about labour.

Voice control was very important to me during labour. I didn't expect it at all. But I found that I chanted, recited poetry, even sang, throughout all my labours, virtually from first contraction to the moment I began 2nd stage. It kept me focused, controlled my breathing so that I neither held my breathe nor hyperventilated, and the vibrations were definitely soothing.

I have been very noisy with all my labours, and groaned, moaned, and shouted the baby out each time. Never screamed. During my last labour, I did not push at all. I was upright in a pool, and allowed the baby to come without any pushing. But I mooooooooooed!

To me, making uninhibited but controlled noise is an essential part of labour.

PetitFilou1 Thu 10-Jul-08 14:07:38

Hello waitinggirl

Can't comment on all that you are asking about but didn't notice any particular changes in my voice during or after pregnancy.

During labour you make some pretty animalistic noises and no dh was not frightened (he is a doctor though but don't think many dhs are frightened they just don't like seeing you in that much pain) During my first labour, mw encouraged me to spend less effort squealing and more on pushing grin

I sing to both my children at bedtime. I definitely noticed that my dd (2nd child) visibly relaxed as a baby when I sang songs that she would have heard me singing to ds while she was in the womb.

The other thing re vocalising in labour - dh has delivered babies in Nepal (before knowing me). The culture is that women are silent during labour - he said it was very very odd.

loopsngeorge Thu 10-Jul-08 20:42:23

Interesting topic! I sing in a choir and the main problem I found in my last pregnancy was the oesophageal muscles relaxing. Although I didn't get full blown heartburn it was a strange sensation - the only way I can describe it was as though I was trying to supress a burb. So it didn't do much for my breathing etc! I didn't notice any change in my range or any difference after DS was born.
I still sing to DS (4) every night before he goes to bed and he really enjoys singing himself. I always liked the idea that he could hear what I was singing when he was in my tummy and tried to expose him to as much music as possible.

hairymcleary Fri 11-Jul-08 02:11:54

I am a former radio announcer and newsreader and have noticed that my voice is definately less smooth since becoming pregnant.
Haven't done any professional voicework for a few years now, but love to show off to DS when I'm reading to him grin and have noticed a bit of a change in my voice recently... can't really put my finger on what it is exactly (apart from being less smooth) but will start paying more attention now so I can tell you!

Califrau Fri 11-Jul-08 02:40:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

whomovedmychocolate Fri 11-Jul-08 07:36:27

I run a recording studio and am called upon to sing on a regular basis on backing tracks etc. Singing is an excellent way of dealing with labour and also nausea. However your lung capacity is pretty much trashed by five months and doesn't return till you are about six months post partum, though I've not managed to work out why yet.

You have to be careful though - low bass notes and babies are not a good mix and you do get a swift kicking should you try and sing in a low register or indeed have a bass drum in the background.

MrsJohnCusack Fri 11-Jul-08 08:52:31

I do sing in a choir but am also a professional clarinet player (also play flute and sax)
I played all the way through both pregnancies - I actually did an audition 3 days before my due date with the 2nd (I ploughed it, but I was there!). Lung capacity was nil by that point, especially as they were big babies (9lbs 14 and 10lbs 5). My poor daughter in particular endured an awful lot of Eb (piccolo) clarinet playing and saxophone bells pointed right at her. Both of them love music now so I don't think I've scarred them too badly...

afterwards, I found that it took an extremely long time to get my innards back to normal. Wind instrument playing and singing are v.similar in breath control/diaphragm use etc. (although you tend to hold the air you breath in in different places). With the clarinet you need to hold the air very low down (it feels like it's in your stomach really) and do all of the work from your diaphragm, which made me feel like my insides were going to drop out every time I tried to play properly (and my pelvic floor isn't even in that bad nick). I played in a show nearly every night for 4 weeks from when DS was 2.5 weeks old (on clt/baritone sax/flute) and I am very proud that my insides and pelvic floor didn't let me down and there were no unfortunate accidents.

Only after about a year did I feel like my insides were back up to scratch for breathing properly and therefore playing properly. Lung capacity comes back before that (prob about 6 months like WMMC says) but the physical ability to work properly with that capacity has taken longer IME and I imagine many singers find the same thing.

VOice wise, my pitch has certainly dropped after pregancy. I am gradually getting most of the really high notes back, but some of those might have gone anyway with lack of practice and age. I do have a very wide range and have found that pregnancy has improved the lower, mezzo range, a lot.

As I said, my poor babies were subjected to alot of music and still are. They LOVE it (they are 3.5 and 16 months) and we sing all the time. We use songs to get things done, we make up words and have tidying up songs and things.

Some other posters who haven't posted on here that you might like to look out for:
Twentypence (another NZ poster on here) runs baby music classes which was go to and also does loads of stuff on using music in early childhood education, she'd prob be a good person to talk to and she knows stacks of stuff about music
Welliemum - another NZ musician
jura, mrsBadger, Harpsichordcarrier - other choir people
littlefish - another singer
tortoishell and islandofsodor too

(now offends others by not mentioning them, they're just the ones that spring to mind)

OH and I love the idea of a pregnancy voice class! In my first birth, I thought I was screaming and vocalising all over the place, but my DH informs me I was more or less completely silent hmm. Must have all been in my head. Similar experience 2nd time round, I just grumbled rather than screeched blush

crochetdiva Fri 11-Jul-08 09:08:56

I sing in a choir, and also sing for pleasure - this is an intriguing subject!

When pg with both of mine, I suffered with hyperemesis, but found that I could control the nausea somewhat by singing along to the radio.

I did find that I lost all semblance of breath control, and my phrasing was all over the place!

My pg yoga class focussed on vocalisation as part of the class: I think it all depends on the teacher.

I know that during my labour this last time, the mw commented at how tuneful I was - I felt like I sang through my labour!

I constantly sing to dd - not necessarily with words, but I hum and sing to her all the time - it seems to calm her.

crochetdiva Fri 11-Jul-08 09:10:46

oh, somebody else to look out for is FloriaTosca - she's an opera singer ... I'll see if I can point her in this direction!

MrsJohnCusack Fri 11-Jul-08 09:22:55

oooooh an opera singer I don't know about on here? lovely

I forgot to say Marina too

and probably loads of other people

FloriaTosca Fri 11-Jul-08 10:14:29

Found it Crotchet, thanksgrin
The nickname slightly give it away doesnt ithmm Professional soprano (lyrico spinto)for more years than I care to mention... trained at the RNCM and NOS...I now teach too.
Singing definately helped morning sickness for me...whether by distraction or the physicality of it I couldnt tell.
For me breathing was fine until 5 months then lo started to encroach, but he never came right up into my ribs as many of my fellow pg friends found..I think perhaps my breathing/support kept him low (he was head down head almost engaged from 24 wks)So though I felt I had less air my ability to sustain long phrases was not greatly impaired (though due to hypertension I was hospitalised for the last 3 weeks and unable to sing so dont know how my last month was affected)mainly because I think I started using my bump to help support (ie pushing down like the Russians rather than supporting upward with proper bel canto technique)but will admit I was sometimes scared that I was going to push the baby out!
I definately lost the high extention of my range...still had my top C but the D was dodgy and the E none existant...9 months on my D is back if I work hard but the E is still elusive...but gained a considerable extention to my lower range...would never sing publicly below Bb (below middle C)but will now happily sing an G, could even risk an F! My tone has always been quite rich but I think it has warmed even more...Breath contol seems better since birth, recently did a Verdi Requiem that tested every aspect of the voice and everything (range, phrasing, tone, power) are defiantely better than the first time I did one 10 yrs ago but whether that is due to pregnancy or simple maturity, who knows.
During labour I was very aware of not wanting to vocalise too much and certainly not scream and damage my chords...DH says I was amazingly restrained...but then again he knows just how loud I can be, the MW thought I was going to scare the other women on the labour ward! Cant remember much myself.
I am certain that singers muscles helped me deliver:before they induced me (38wks)he still wasnt engaged and they gave me a less than 50% chance of delivering naturally but I refused an elective c section and though I did get to the "I can't do this anymore" stage, (after 5hrs), with the threat of forceps imminent I did manage to push him past the u bend and out myself. (And they say the over 40s are too old to contract effectively!)
I did sing to him conciously throughout my pregnancy, especially lullabies at bed time...he recognised them immediately after birth...the Mozart one calms him instantly and usually puts him in the mood to sleep.(We now have a repertoire of Mozart/lullaby, Brahms/lullaby, Offenbach/Barcarolle, Humperdink/Hansel&Gretels prayer and "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins...If I have to repeat the cycle I just hmm them..I've never had to repeat them more than once) What amazed me is that at 8 weeks old he very obviously recognised a Jeff Buckley tune (Allelujah) that I had been teaching to a pupil once a week for 5 weeks before I was hospitalised! ie. he heard it in utero 5 times between 30 & 35wks and 11 weeks later the tune, in a different version comes on tv and he stopped crying in his grans arms, relaxed (arms spread wide) and listened..and only at that point did I recognise the tune!!!!!!He is apparently already showing an interest in music in all forms.
Feel free to contact me if you think I can be of ore help.

FloriaTosca Fri 11-Jul-08 10:19:22

More help even!

waitinggirl Fri 11-Jul-08 10:55:45

ohmigod - thank you all so so much - this is AMAZING stuff. i am popping off on hols for a week next week, so won't be around (unless i can find an internet cafe in the back of beyond), but if anyone else has more information, it is all fantastic for my dissertation.

i may well start contacting some of you individually if i've got individual questions.

thank you thank you thank you!

Dondletella Fri 11-Jul-08 11:35:38

Very interesting thread. I just lost my voice today! Am currently 29 weeks and sitting at my desk whispering to my colleagues. Am sure it is do with my lungs being compressed and not clearing catarrh from a lousy cold I have!

I also do pregnancy yoga and find the vocalising a vital part of the class - we do 'omms' to the baby and let go of noises when deep breathing out. Alot of the class it to do with opening up the lungs -I haven't been able to get there this week and look what happened to me!

cyteen Fri 11-Jul-08 11:58:14

Fascinating stuff. I'm not a professional singer nor trained in any way, but just a self-taught enthusiast who sings around the house. I have a reasonably wide range (think Kate Bush/Joni Mitchell, although missing a few of the very very top notes grin) and have found that the quality of my singing has been much better since being up the duff - I produce a much richer sound. Because I don't sing regularly, tone and control would vary but they've both been much improved over the last few months, despite the baby's head being wedged under my ribs for weeks on end and impairing my breath function. I suspect as much as anything that the improvement is down to not drinking booze - whenever I've had a drink or been drinking over a few nights, I notice a drop in my ability to sing well.

A pregnancy voice class sounds amazing. I am quite interested in what kind of sounds I will make when I go into labour (am 33 weeks with my first child) and will also be interested to see how it helps with the inhibition that has always stopped me from pursuing a more public singing career.

Anyway, I'm currently supposed to be writing my dissertation blush so should probably clear off! Good luck with yours, I'd be interested to read it if the opportunity arises in the future

Califrau Fri 11-Jul-08 16:57:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MummyLovesPrams Fri 11-Jul-08 17:02:16

I have most definately lost a lot of my range since I had DD.

I used to have a fairly wide range but now struggle with high & low notes so am having to stay very much in the middle ranges now.

I have also found my breath control is utterly appalling this PG - I still had pretty good control whilst PG with DD - but this time around it's dreadful & I falter on long notes blush!

silvermum Fri 11-Jul-08 17:37:25

waiting girl, i'm also very interested in your research on a number of levels. do you have a private email i can contact you through?

muppetgirl Fri 11-Jul-08 18:50:19

Hi I was teaching whilst prgt with ds 1 I taught a class but also music through the school. I found that I totally ran out of breath whilst teaching choir and songs for the nativity. I have quite a high voice which is quite clear in tone but found I did have a slightly wider range. Whilst I'm definitely not a trained singer I do have a background as a classically trained 'cellist and sang regularly through various different lessons/groups that I had to as part of various courses I've done in the past. As for childbirth I don't seem to make much noise as I tend to go 'into myself' so you may do that to or you may bellow like a fresion! grin
Ds 1 came out loving music but not much else! I used to play the piano for him which really calmed him when he had colic. I didn't sing to him at all though...

ds 2 (now 8 months) loves to have his head resting on my upper chest skin to skin -with a v necked t-shirt on for example- with his head tucked under my neck so he has a connection with my voice box and heartbeat and I hum any old tune. It calms him in any situation.

This subject sounds fascinating I would also love to know whether singing to your child in utero/early life makes you more 'musical?' Would it make you good at music or have a great enjoyment of it -as my lovely dh does. (I had to ask him not to sing at our wedding during the hymns as he sings so out of tune but he does the most amazing steering wheel bongos -very rhythmical!)

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