Prenatal music, that is, music specifically designed lor pregnant mothers and their unborn children has suddenly burst upon the scene. In England, Clifford Olds has made a cassette of classical music with womb words; in the USA, Leon Thurman and Anna Peter Langness have produced "Heartsongs" using voices and singing; and in Canada, Sandra Collier-Verny and Thomas Verny released on Valentine's Day their selections of classical music called "Love Chords." For more details please read in this issue the "Review of Books and Records."
Hand in hand with this explosion of music on the pre-natal scene has been a growing interest in providing the pregnant mother with a cassette player that can be attached to her body and deliver music through headphones directly to her unborn child. I am aware of at least three individuals in the U.S. who have applied to take out a patent on such devices. Personally, I am very concerned about this development. I worry that:
1. the mother, not being able to hear the tape, will play it again and again and thus over-stimulate the baby,
2. the tape will stop when it comes to the end but the machine will not turn off producing unpleasant hissing noises,
3. along the same lines, that the cassette player malfunctions and the baby hears nothing but irritating noises,
4. the volume is set too high and the baby is exposed to painful levels of sound or that the volume is set too low and the baby hears nothing,
5. some mothers may be tempted to use "instructional" tapes i.e. religious, political or philosophical messages or bombarding their captive audience with lessons in arithmetic or Shakespeare,
6. we don't know the effect of the radiation emitted by the cassette player on the unborn child and the pregnant mother.
I recognize the fact that many of the people who are working on this invention and perhaps many more parents who are becoming familiar with the concepts of Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology and are already using their own home made contraptions to deliver music to their unborn children are doing so with the best of motives. But in view of the above listed concerns, I would advocate that for the present we enhance the unborn child's physical, mental and spiritual development through old fashioned methods: parents talking to, playing with, thinking about and visualizing the baby. If you play music, classical or just your own favorite kind, I suggest you use the stereo in the room, not on the tummy.
Thomas R Verny, M.D.
JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.