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Vocal Toning For Childbirth

Practice Vocal Toning In Pregnancy For Relaxation and Focus

Use vocal toning for childbirth to enhance the physiologic connection between the vocal cords, diaphragm, and perineum.

Benefits of Vocal Toning in Childbirth

Vocal toning is the practice of making a low, vibratory sound as breath is slowly released. It can be either a humming sound or a vowel sound that is slowly exhaled.

Vocal toning is a practice that is used by singers, musical therapists, and with certain types of meditation. Vocal toning for childbirth has increased as the techniques used by musical therapists have been applied to pregnancy and labor.

There is a physiologic connection between the vocal cords, the respiratory diaphragm, and the perineum. Vocal toning enhances that relationship and help women achieve focus and relaxation during labor.

While vocalizations are common during childbirth, only one study on sounds in labor was found by Pierce in 1998. Of participants who were taught toning in pregnancy, 86% used it in labor. 61% found it helpful in dealing with pain, 42% indicated it promoted relaxation, and 50% said it helped them stay focused. What is particularly important to note about these responses of these participants, is that they mentioned those benefits in an open ended format; rather than a numerical response to a question.

This study demonstrates the potential benefit of toning as a comfort technique, but no study was found regarding toning as a labor enhancement to make contractions more efficient. Nonetheless, midwives sometimes recommend toning if labor progress is impeded. Particularly the “ohhh” sound, as deep and low as possible, may be used.

The long “o” vowel sound opens the throat, and there is a correlation between a relaxed throat and a relaxed perineum. Women are encouraged to say “ohhhh” and think of opening the pelvic bowl. The o shape can even be visualized as one imagines the round open pelvis opening wider and wider as more air is released.

Practice Vocal Toning In Pregnancy

Many women feel inhibited making the low earthy sounds in front of others. To over-come these inhibitions, these following guidelines may be beneficial to share with expectant or laboring women:
  • Put the index and middle finger of one hand in the notch at the bottom of the throat, right above the chest bone.
  • Take a deep breath in, then as you let it out make a low humming sound, “hnnnn.” Let the sound continue while your breath is released completely.
  • Feel the vibrations with your fingers.
  • Make a lower or higher sound and notice the change in the quality of vibrations.
  • Try different vowel sounds, noting the change in the opening of the lower part of the throat.
  • Practice this in the shower several minutes every day.
The recommendation to practice in the shower has several reasons. First, you are alone and do not need to be concerned about the reactions of others. People may feel less inhibited without their clothes on, and the sound and feel of falling water may help them to feel grounded.

Vocal Toning and Perineal Control

This technique takes more practice, but can assist in developing the strength and responsiveness of the perineal muscles to the mother.
  • Take a deep cleansing breath in through the nose, simultaneously doing a kegel (or tightening the vaginal muscle.)
  • Exhale through your mouth slowly, releasing the perineum as you exhale.
  • Wait several seconds before taking your next deep breath.
  • With this second exhalation, use vocal toning as you exhale.
  • Make the "o" sound with the exhalation.
  • You may add the imagery of the pelvic bowl as a round "o". Imagine sending all the exhaled air down out of the pelvis and the open vagina.
  • Repeat four to five times in one session.
As you become more skilled with this technique, try this variation of vocal toning for childbirth:
  • On the exhalation, start with the "o" sound and slowly change it to "ahhj" over the course of the exhalation.
  • Try slowly changing from "o" to "ahh" and back to "o" in one exhalation.

    Vocal Toning In Labor

    Vocal toning for childbirth is probably used more often in home births than in hospital births.

    Oddly, some labor nurses seem to be uncomfortable with the practice of toning and encourage the mother to change to a different form of breathing the nurse is more familiar with. Such behavior explains not only why some mothers are intimidated to use toning in labor, but also gives insight into how inhibitions from others hinder the birth process. After all, if you feel inhibited from saying “oh” in front of someone, how comfortable are you going to be birthing around them?

    A simple solution in these scenarios is to go into the bathroom and use the vocalizations while standing in the shower, kneeling in the tub, or sitting on the toilet.

    Return from Vocal Toning for Childbirth to the Better Childbirth Outcomes HOME PAGE.

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    By Karen Newell Copyright 2011 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
    Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA