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I heard that classical music is good for a pregnant woman and her baby. Actually my wife is pregnant, and this is our first baby. So my question is is it true that classical music is good for a pregnant woman and her baby?

If so, what kind of classical music is best for my wife and our baby?

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Can I suggest finding an actual claim to reference beyond just the subjective good. –  Chad Aug 10 '11 at 17:40
of course you can:D –  Eko Kurniawan Khannedy Aug 10 '11 at 17:43
Good for what? Heart, brain, muscles, ability to hear, smooth skin, feeling well - can you specify what is improved by music? –  user unknown Aug 11 '11 at 20:09
Googling "pregnant music" will turn up about a billion claims and hearsay. E.g. from nuvo-group.com : "Numerous studies show that playing music for a developing baby during pregnancy contributes positively to bonding and stress reduction" –  MSalters Aug 12 '11 at 12:58
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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'm adding this answer to address some of the comments on the other answers that were asking for studies based on small children and/or pregnant women.

First of all, Dr. Rauscher's work on the Mozart Effect has received a lot of bad press in the academic literature:

The successful performance of the Mozart group may be explained by the incomplete use of random assignment of subjects to groups and by experimenter effects in the construction of groups. The results of Rauscher et al. (1998) do not provide strong support for the existence of the Mozart effect.

It doesn't look like the effect exists for young children, either:

We investigated the Mozart effect, as documented by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993), with school-aged children. Experiment 1 contrasted the spatial IQ scores of children who had listened to a Mozart sonata (K.448) with the scores of children who had listened to a piece of popular dance music in a pretest-post-test design. There was no significant main effect of music and no significant difference between the pretest and post-test scores for both groups. Owing to the non-significant findings, a second experiment was carried out. We used a methodology that had previously replicated the Mozart effect. Again, Expt. 2 did not support the claim that Mozart's music can enhance spatial performance. Groups performed similarly on the control test and the experimental test, irrespective of whether they listened to Mozart or to popular dance music. Since the two different designs produced similar findings, the data suggest that the Mozart effect is so ephemeral that it is questionable as to whether any practical application will come from it. In the discussion, we suggest more fruitful avenues for future research on the relationship between music and spatial performance: arousal and transfer of learning.
[Emphasis is mine.]

But that doesn't really answer the original question: Is classical music good for a pregnant woman and her baby?

To that end, I haven't been able to find any peer reviewed articles that have tested that specific claim. It should be noted, though, that Rauscher—the original discoverer of this "phenomena"—has since admitted that there is no scientific support for the fact that listening to classical music is good for infants:

To date, the Mozart Effect has failed to be replicated in scientific settings on at least a few dozen occasions. Even Rauscher, although she stands by her findings, has been amazed by the appropriation of her work for corporate ends. In a 1999 television debate, Rauscher agreed with Steele, saying, “There’s no scientific data suggesting that playing Mozart to babies is going to make them ‘smarter.’
[Once again, emphasis is mine.]

I will add that this all depends on one's definition of "good". If by "good for a baby" we mean "will increase the baby's intelligence," then I think the answer is: No, listening to classical music probably won't permanently increase a baby's intelligence. It might still be good, though, if it is soothing to the pregnant mother. If the music reduces the mother's stress, this is definitely good since stressors are directly linked to complications in pregnancy. That could be true of any style of music, though.

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"That could be true of any style of music, though." I do not quite see how rap is going to soothe, but that's just coming from the guy who listens to Thomas Newman before going to sleep. :) ...Even [some] Metal is more soothing than [most] rap. –  muntoo Dec 16 '11 at 3:16
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This is known as "The Mozart Effect," and its effects are only temporary...

CBC Radio interviewed Dr. Rauscher on 2010-Jul-01 on their show "As it happens," where she talked about her study (which elicited emotional responses, including a few death threats) and also explained how the effects were only temporary for specific spatial tasks. You can listen to this interview by tuning in to CBC Radio's web site:

  CBC Radio - As it happens - July 1st, 2010 episode
  (Play part 1, and skip ahead to "19 minutes" for the interview)

More details about "The Mozart Effect" can also be found at http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/lerch1/edpsy/mozart_effect.html where, in particular, the following two paragraphs about the relevant studies seem to help to answer the question:

He later joined two other researchers, Frances Rauscher and Katherine Ky, in creating the study that coined the term "Mozart Effect". In the October 14, 1993, issue of "Nature" they published a short summary of the findings from their experiment. They assigned thirty six Cal-Irvine students to one of three groups, and offered the same "pretest" to each of the students. One group then listened to a selection by Mozart (Sonata in D major for Two Pianos, K488). A second group listened to what was called a "relaxation tape," and the third group was subjected to ten minutes of silence. All of the students were given the same test, which was designed to measure spatial IQ. This test is described as mentally unfolding a piece of paper is that has been folded over several times and then cut. The object is to correctly select the final unfolded paper shape from five examples. The students who listened to the Mozart sonata averaged an 8&endash;9 point increase in their IQ as compared to the average of the students who had listened to the relaxation tape or who had experienced silence. The increase in IQ of the Mozart group was transitory, lasting only about the time it took to take the test-- from ten to fifteen minutes.

This test stirred enough interest in the academic community to induce several other research teams to conduct similar experiments, with disparate results.

Additionally, the media played a big hand in the creation of the misinformation, according to the interview, when they used Dr. Rauscher's explanations out of context to the point of mis-quoting her as concluding that rock music is bad when what she really said was that she hadn't conducted any studies on rock music (she did get a free T-Shirt from the famous rock group Nirvana though, with all the band members' signatures on it as appreciation for the free publicity).

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The methodology is suspect. They only tested American college students, who are probably primed to associate Mozart with being intelligent (unlike babies); a large part of this effect could be stereotype lift. It would have been better to use small children. –  Qiaochu Yuan Aug 11 '11 at 17:50
Is it my fault, if I don't find any relation to pregnancy here? –  user unknown Aug 11 '11 at 20:15
@user: The question was Is X good for an unborn baby. If the answer is X is not shown to be good for anyone, then pregnancy is covered. –  Bill Aug 11 '11 at 20:30
No it's not... Think about it. –  Sklivvz Aug 11 '11 at 21:55
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I think you're thinking of the Mozart effect. The only study I'm familiar with (the Rauscher et. al. 1993 study) suggested that listening to Mozart affected short-term performance on spatial–temporal tasks involving mental imagery and temporal ordering. The effect did not last beyond 15 minutes. Other research is listed at the bottom of that article.

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Welcome to Skeptics! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, [it would be preferable] to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference –  Borror0 Aug 10 '11 at 19:10
@Borror: Thanks! Unfortunately, I only know enough about the topic to find that link, and that the results are misrepresented by many. I can't do any better than wikipedia on this. Should I do some summarization of that page? –  Bill Aug 10 '11 at 20:14
You don't even mention pregnancy. It's not an answer to the question. –  user unknown Aug 11 '11 at 20:16
@user: I'm sorry, I assumed as common knowledge that pregnancy lasts longer than 15 minutes. –  Bill Aug 11 '11 at 20:30
@ESultanik: That's pretty much my point. The study that the media hyped doesn't say what the media said it did. –  Bill Aug 12 '11 at 15:22
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