Music and Motherhood

A family gamelan workshop
Music and Motherhood explored how creative engagement can support the wellbeing of new mothers. 

Post-natal depression (PND) is thought to affect at least 13% of new mothers, with symptoms including persistent low mood, fatigue, insomnia, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, and anxiety about the baby. While there is evidence that psychosocial and psychological interventions are an effective treatment option for PND, there remain challenges with pharmacological treatment models. Consequently, research into promising psychosocial interventions such as music is critical to developing new paradigms for treating PND and supporting families.

The project found that mothers with moderate-severe symptoms of PND who took part in 10-week singing classes with their baby had a significantly faster improvement in symptoms than mothers having their usual care. There was not a significant difference in recovery speed between mothers taking part in a comparison activity of ten weeks of creative play and those in usual care. While both singing and play interventions supported hedonic wellbeing, singing appeared to elicit a more functional psycho-emotional response rooted in the needs of new motherhood: to feel immersed and relaxed in an activity beyond baby care, to feel competent as a mother, and to feel bonded with baby. Additionally, the survey revealed that daily singing to babies is associated with fewer symptoms of PND and higher levels of wellbeing, self-esteem, and perceived mother-infant bond. Listening to music during pregnancy is also associated with higher levels of wellbeing and reduced symptoms of PND in the first 3 months post-birth.

The research has been reported extensively in the international press and Breathe Arts Health Research put the new findings into practice, running singing workshops in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust for women with postnatal depression across Lambeth and Southwark in London. It hopes the programme will reach over 200 new mothers and will specifically target women from deprived backgrounds or from typically hard-to-reach groups.

Music and Motherhood was run by the Centre for Performance Science.

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Supported by

Project team

Rosie Perkins

Daisy Fancourt (University College London)

Diana Roberts

Sarah Yorke

Project outputs

Watch the Music & Motherhood video.

Download and read the Music & Motherhood summary report.

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2019), Creative interventions for symptoms of postnatal depression: a process evaluation of implementation, Arts & Health, 11, 38-53 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Does attending community music interventions lead to changes in wider musical behaviours? The effect of mother-infant singing classes on musical behaviours amongst mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, Psychology of Music, 47, 132-143 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Could listening to music during pregnancy be protective against postnatal depression and poor wellbeing post birth? Longitudinal associations from a preliminary prospective cohort study, BMJ Open8 (e021251), 1-8 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), The effect of singing interventions on symptoms of postnatal depression: a three-arm randomised controlled trial, British Journal of Psychiatry, 212, 119-121 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Maternal engagement with music up to nine months post-birth: findings from a cross-sectional study in England, Psychology of Music, 46, 238-251 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Singing for mother-infant bonding: the effects of mother-infant singing on emotional closeness, affect and anxiety, Music & Science, 1 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2017), Associations between singing to babies and symptoms of postnatal depression, wellbeing, self-esteem and mother-infant bond, Public Health, 145, 149-152 [DOI].

Perkins R, Yorke S, & Fancourt D (2018), Learning to facilitate arts-in-health programmes: a case study of musicians facilitating creative interventions for mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, International Journal of Music Education, 36, 644-658 [PDF] [DOI].

Perkins R, Yorke S, & Fancourt D (2018), How group singing facilitates recovery from the symptoms of postnatal depression: A comparative qualitative study, BMC Psychology, 6 (41), 1-12 [DOI].

Yorke S & Perkins R (2017), Music and Motherhood – Facilitating Interventions for Mothers and their Babies, Royal College of Music [PDF] [DOI].


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