If you broke into song the second you found out you were expecting, keep hitting those high notes, because singing throughout pregnancy can help you feel more relaxed and "in tune" with your baby—and may even make labor easier, according to an unusual type of prenatal workshop now being offered at some hospitals in the UK.
Called Wombsong, the premise of the class is simple: moms-to-be gather in a group to learn proper breathing and singing techniques from a vocal coach, and then give their vocal chords a workout. Warm-ups have moms bzzing like bees and tra-la-la-ing with laughter. Then, when it's time to harmonize, song choices include rhythmic rounds (think "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"), gentle African lullabies, and everything in between.
Advocates of the hospital class say singing during pregnancy helps mothers relax because singing naturally increases levels of endorphins and the happy hormone serotonin. Babies may be listening, too—from the 23rd week on, babies' hearing is typically developed enough to detect sound, including an a cappella sing-along.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, because singing techniques focus on controlled breathing, learning how to sing like a pro may also come in handy in the delivery room.
"Singing will help control and slow the breath. Using those techniques to breathe deeply and slowly in labour can really calm your muscles and body," voice coach and natural voice practitioner Maya Waldman, the teacher responsible for Wombsong, tells the Daily Mail.
Whether you sing in the shower, or hit your favorite karaoke bar to belt out some tunes, with a little practice, it's surprisingly easy to sing—and breathe—just like a pro. For starters, vocal coach Susan Govali, pay attention to your posture.
"Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your hips, knees and back relaxed," she instructs. Next, imagine a string going up through your body. The string should pull you up on your toes and then lower you back down so that your weight stays on the balls of your feet. Arrange your posture to tuck your belly button in and leave your rib cage/chest open.
Next, practice belly breathing—a standard singing breath and, yes, also a Lamaze technique. Pretend the air you are breathing in is very heavy. Visualize it weighing 50 pounds and let it fall low into your body, lower than your belly button. Keep one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly as you breathe. If you can feel your chest expanding, your breath is too shallow. See or feel your belly expand? To exhale, release air in a steady stream from your belly, imagining yourself blowing a feather high into the air.
When do you sing? As you exhale.
What do you sing? Anything you want.
"I sang along to Katy Perry basically every day of my pregnancy," says new mom Stephanie DeFreitas, of Barrington, Massachusetts. "When I hummed a few bars from 'Teenage Dream' one day while changing my daughter's diaper, she suddenly turned her head to stare at my mouth, like she recognized it. If that's true, it doesn't surprise me. Singing has always made me happy, so I think it made her happy, too."