Music of Motherhood: Sounds to Soothe and Strengthen During Labor and Delivery

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Music offers a soundtrack for our lives. Who doesn’t remember the ballad that played during her first slow dance, the movie theme song that was popular during elementary school, or the band whose lyrics defined your adolescence? Music gives life to everything around us, so what better tool than music to help bring life into the world?

Music acts through the parts of the brain that are associated with memories and emotions, and music stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin (transmitters in your brain) that control mood and pain. And, simply, music provides a positive distraction. With these effects, listening to music can activate mental processes that make experiences more or less comfortable, and music can be an important tool to reduce stress and anxiety during labor and delivery. In clinical studies, women who listened to music reported lower anxiety and less pain during labor. (Check out these other ideas about natural ways to reduce pain and anxiety during labor.)

The ideal labor and delivery playlist should include around 5 to 10 hours of music. But, what to choose? Some data have been gathered and women are remarkably consistent regarding what type of music is considered most relaxing, but, truly, the best music for labor is the music you want to listen to. The tempo, harmony, rhythm, instruments, melody, voices, and pitch all comprise what makes music beautiful, but a person’s familiarity with music is a key determinant of whether she will find it relaxing.

People who have used music during delivery recommend a mix of different types of songs: some slow, some upbeat, and some meditative. You may want to have different styles for different phases of labor: music you simply enjoy during early labor, relaxing music during active labor, high-energy music for pushing, and celebratory and joy-filled music for after the birth.

Here’s a list of popular labor and delivery songs collected from music and motherhood resources:

  • “After the Moment” by Craft Spells
  • “All About Loving You” by Bon Jovi
  • “All of Me” by John Legend
  • “At Last” by Etta James
  • “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” by John Lennon
  • “Best Day Of Your Life” by Katie Herzig
  • “Better Together” by Jack Johnson
  • “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
  • “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell
  • “Brass Monkey” by Beastie Boys
  • “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Breathe” by Faith Hill
  • “Closing Time” by Semisonic
  • “Capri” by Colbie Caillat
  • “Counting Stars” by One Republic
  • “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins
  • “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • “Don’t Leave Me” by Regina Spektor
  • “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay
  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
  • “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
  • “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
  • “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams
  • “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney
  • “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
  • “Festival” by Sigur Rós
  • “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart
  • “Follow the Sun” by Xavier Rudd
  • “Fruits of my Labor” by Lucinda Williams
  • “Get Ready for This” by 2Unlimited
  • “Get This Party Started” by Pink!
  • “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C & C Music Factory
  • “Got to Get You Into My Life” by The Beatles
  • “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
  • “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  • “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin
  • “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
  • “Here’s to Never Growing Up” by Avril Lavigne
  • “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers
  • “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
  • “Hold You in My Arms” by Ray LaMontagne
  • “Hot In Here” by Nelly
  • “Hurt So Good” by John Mellencamp
  • “I Want to Break Free” by Queen
  • “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
  • “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
  • “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “If I Were a Boy” by Beyonce
  • “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” by Rodney Atkins
  • “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
  • “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons
  • “Jump in the Line” by Harry Belafonte
  • “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam
  • “Le Freak” by Chic
  • “Let’s Get it Started in Here” by Black Eyed Peas
  • “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas
  • “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • “Must Get Out” by Maroon 5
  • “My Girl” by The Temptations
  • “Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine
  • “Nightswimming” by R.E.M.
  • “Nothing Else Matters” by Apocalyptica
  • “Nos Bailes Da Vida” by Milton Nascimento
  • “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship
  • “Orinoco Flow” by Enya
  • “Push” by Madonna
  • “Push It” by Salt ‘n’ Pepa
  • “Really Love” by D’Angelo
  • “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
  • “Release Me” by Wilson Phillips
  • “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx
  • “Roar” by Katy Perry
  • “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce
  • “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Root
  • “She’s My Baby” by The Traveling Wilburys
  • “Starlight” by Muse
  • “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Stay” by Kygo, Maty Noyes
  • “Strong Enough” by Cher
  • “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers
  • “Sunrise” by Norah Jones
  • “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap
  • “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
  • “The Circle of Life” by Elton John
  • “The Drugs Don’t Work” The Verve
  • “The Power” by Snap!
  • “They Say It’s Your Birthday” by Paul McCartney
  • “Try” by Pink
  • “Two” by Lenka
  • “Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 – Johann Sebastian Bach” by Yo-Yo Ma
  • “Under Pressure” by David Bowie
  • “With or Without You” by U2
  • “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel
  • “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘N’ Roses
  • “With A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker
  • “You Belong to Me” by Taylor Swift
  • “You Can Do It (Put Your Back Into It)” by Ice Cube/Mack 10
  • “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey
  • “Your Protector” by Fleet Foxes

If making a playlist ahead of time is too much to add to your pregnancy to-do list, or just to have a backup, consider choosing some stations on music streaming sites that you can go to quickly during labor.

Make sure you talk to your obstetrician and the hospital to find out if there are music policies or limitations that will affect what you play and how you play it. Bring a pair of headphones and a speaker: make sure everything is charged and bring extra charging cables.

Jennifer Gibson
Dr. Jennifer Gibson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Clemson University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She trained as a hospital pharmacist and is the author of clinical textbooks, peer-reviewed journal articles, and continuing education programs for the medical community, as well as a contributor to award-winning healthcare blogs and websites. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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