Pregnancy and Singing: Part 1
Don't worry, it's not your mind playing tricks on you. You haven't seen a post from me in a couple months, and for good reason. First, my studio just gave a fabulous voice recital this past weekend. It's always such a thrill for me to see these students get the opportunity to perform for their friends and family. As always, the singers were elated and the audience had a wonderful afternoon.
The second reason you haven't seen a post from me recently is that my husband and I are having a second child (due in Nov.). With the first trimester finally behind me, I'm finally feeling well enough to get back to my normal hectic schedule! As you are already aware, pregnancy changes your body in many different ways. What you may not be as aware of is how it affects the singing voice. Over the next few months, I'm planning a series of posts about how pregnancy affects the voice.
Today, I'd like to talk about breathing. In your voice lessons, it's the first thing you discuss, and it's the basis for all phonation, so what better place to start! Changes in your breathing start right away in pregnancy. At first, maybe even before you find out you are pregnant, you sense the need to breathe. This need is acting as a reminder to take long deep breaths rather than short shallow breaths. You also need more oxygen during pregnancy, and your body naturally adapts to meet this need. An increase in hormones, namely progesterone, affects your lungs and stimulates the respiratory center in your brain. While the number of breaths you take per minute doesn't really change during pregnancy, the amount of air you take in with each breath increases significantly. Later in the pregnancy, usually between 6-9 months, breathing tends to become much more labored as the uterus puts pressure on the diaphragm.
Another change in breathing is caused by allergens and asthma. Many singers deal with these issues on a daily basis and are easily helped with medications. And while there are allergy and asthma medications approved to be taken during pregnancy, most doctors do not allow their use during the first trimester.
So how does this affect your singing? As with all things, each person responds to pregnancy differently. For me, I find that I'm not able to take in as much air and have a much harder time controlling the amount of air I'm able to put out. Part of this is due to what I have already discussed above, but it's also due to my inability to totally connect with my abdominal panel. Because the abdominal muscles are stretched, the feelings of pull, stretch, contract, etc. are distorted.
Luckily there are a few ways to help your breathing during pregnancy. Prenatal yoga classes, or other breathing based exercises, are a great way to focus on the breath and allow for a more controlled inhalation/exhalation process. At home, be sure to sit with excellent body alignment. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, especially when sitting, to give your breathing mechanism as much room as possible. Rest when you need to, but be sure to sing everyday!
Stay tuned for more posts about pregnancy and singing.