Will listening to music pregnant make your baby smarter?

Research is mixed on whether classical music gives your baby an edge later in life.

woman pressing headphones to pregnant belly

Many pregnant women think that playing classical music for her unborn child will improve the baby’s intelligence. Parents want so much to give their children every possible enhancement they can. Parents naturally want the best for their babies.

These days, part of “the best” is often being “the smartest.” But, is there scientific evidence to back up this idea?

A short paper in the scientific journal Nature introduced the so-called “Mozart effect” in 1993. The study involved only 36 college students. Results suggested students who listened to Mozart before a test did better than students those who didn’t. The effect in the students was temporary and has always been controversial.

The media and politicians responded with claims that music could alleviate physical and mental health problems, among other benefits. Companies still continue to market classical music to increase intelligence. This can make women feel guilty if they are not providing this service for their unborn child. While thousands of units have been sold, the scientific proof is lacking.

Music and development

A comprehensive review of all available studies found no link between classical music and brain development. Interestingly, infants in one test appeared to recognize music that had frequently been played by the parents during pregnancy. Some studies suggest that children who spend time in a musical pursuit tested higher on SATs and reading proficiency exams. Some researchers believe musical training creates new pathways in the brain. If classical music does make a difference in a baby’s IQ, it’s probably a very slight difference.

If you like classical music, by all means, play it. It definitely can’t hurt. Researchers believe that babies can hear outside sounds while in the womb. Reading, singing or playing your favorite music can help you feel closer to your baby, and that’s a good thing. Don’t feel pressured into the latest trends. You don’t have to play music, read books, teach your baby a foreign language or do anything else to make your baby smart. In fact, you already have a great control over your baby’s environment.

Environment and development

In order to develop properly, your baby needs a safe and healthy environment. So, basic things like not smoking, not hanging around smokers and not drinking will have a huge impact. Inhaling or ingesting substances like cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol and illegal drugs, hinder brain development and increase the risk of learning and behavior problems.

Getting rest and continuing to exercise will also impact your baby’s initial environment. Moderate levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that is also secreted when you exercise, may promote your baby’s brain growth and development.

Nourish yourself, nourish your baby

What you eat, drink and breathe has long-term impacts on your baby, resulting in developmental enhancements or delays. Taking a prenatal vitamin with the B vitamin folic acid, is essential. To get more folic acid in your diet, look to fortified breakfast cereals, lentils and leafy greens like spinach.

Some women develop problems with their thyroid for the first time during pregnancy, and it’s important to treat issues that arise. Low levels of thyroid hormone have been linked to subtle IQ deficits later in childhood. To help keep the gland functioning normally, consume 220 mcg of iodine per day. Iodine is found in yogurt and milk, as well as iodized salt. While it takes very poor maternal nutrition to harm a baby’s developing brain, in general, the better you nourish your body, the better you nourish your baby’s growing brain.

The longer the baby stays in the womb, the better. The longer your baby’s brain has to develop in utero, the better off he or she’ll be in the long run. At 35 weeks, baby’s brain volume is only two thirds of what you’d expect it to be at 39 or 40 weeks. The March of Dimes advises against planning your delivery before 39 weeks as that is when your baby’s brain is still developing. And every time you wish your pregnancy were over, remember that your smart, healthy baby is worth the wait.

Posted In Children's, Health Information, Pregnancy, Women's

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