Sunday 5 September 2021



How I Discovered the Benefits of Music Therapy for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Postpartum Depression

After birthing my first son on August 26, 2002 at the Apapa General Hospital, Lagos, I suffered from postpartum depression.

He weighed 3.75kg at birth and it was a very painful experience for me.

At that time, I did not know what it was called. I just thought that I was weighed down with trying to adjust to my wifely and motherhood duties and juggling my undergraduate lectures and professional examinations in accounting together.

My plate was full!

I did not get treatment for it because I did not know that I had a problem but I could not explain why I was usually moody. 

However, I have always loved to listen to music and I did just that on a regular basis and it helped to brighten up my mood whenever I felt sad.

I was tempted to drop out of school but after much thought, I pulled myself together. 

I decided to defer my professional examination and took things easy upon the realization that I had to share my time with my baby and my husband.

I flunked all my courses in my final year. My grades dropped from the first class. I was tired of school. 

Eventually, I graduated with a second class upper with no carryovers. I did not really care because I was already having doubts about pursuing a career in accounting but I did not want to disappoint my parents.

Two years after childbirth, I was given a Jehovah witness magazine by a preaching couple who came by my house.

One of the topics in that magazine was postpartum depression. That was when I realized that what I suffered from two years ago was postpartum depression.

So, I went online to learn more about it and I discovered other types of depression such as bipolar disorder. 

I also discovered that I could listen to organized music to help ease the anxiety.

I decided to consult a psychiatrist at the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Ogun State. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given anti-depressants.

This happened because I did not get treated the post partum depression treated on time.

Armed with this knowledge, I was able to prepare myself for psychiatric treatment after I had a painful miscarriage in 2006. 

The miscarriage happened in church. I had just completed my National Youth Service in Lagos. 

I had wanted to get up to go with the choir to the podium to render a special number. As I got up, I almost fainted as blood gushed out of me like a tap. I was rushed home by some of the choristers.

I took a bath and lay down on the couch. After a while, I felt like urinating. As I got up to go to the toilet, I felt a thud in my pant. What could it be? Did I just defecate in my pant?

I doubted it. The thud came from my vagina. I knew it.

Slowly, I pulled down my pant and there it was….a foetus. It must have been about six weeks old. It was already formed into a baby with a head but no arms and legs.

I let out a sharp cry and cried for a while. Afterwards, I got a tissue paper, put the foetus in it and kept it in a bowl in front of the bathroom. I wanted my husband to see it when he came back from church with our son before flushing it down the toilet.

I fell into a depression afterwards. Music came to the rescue. In addition, my spirit was lifted after I got an invitation by the Nigerian Navy for an aptitude test. I had applied for a short service career with the Nigerian Navy after rejecting Access Bank’s job offer. I was already bored with my bank job. I was looking for something exciting. 

I came second in the Lagos test and I was invited to Onne, Port Harcourt for another series of written tests, physical tests, health tests and oral interviews. I excelled in all these tests but I began to feel funny shortly after I got back home.

I went for a blood test and I was sure that no matter how well I performed at the other tests, I must have failed the Navy urine and blood tests because I was pregnant again.

I often fell sick and could not apply for another job. So, I stayed at home and applied for a music scholarship at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) after I watched the advertisement on Silverbird Television whilst watching cartoons with my son.

I was the only one selected for music. So, I began music school with my bulgy belly.

For my second childbirth on June 5, 2007 at the Island Maternity Hospital, Lagos, I was prepared. 

I listened to a lot of music during my pregnancy. Before my delivery date I had prepared playlists that I listened to via my phone and earphone to help ease the tension.

I had induced labour for my first and second childbirths as these babies refused to come out. They wanted to build mansions inside of me.

As I waited to get induced by the doctor, I was anxious. So, I brought out my headphones and tried to listen to the radio. 

The conversations on the radio talk show were distracting and made me uncomfortable. I needed to focus. So, I switched to my music playlist.

The first playlist were songs that I loved: a blend of hip hop and soul music.  

After the doctor induced me, I began to feel pains and then I began to feel uncomfortable with the lyrics of the music. I just wanted to hear the melody and rhythm of the music. So, I switched to another playlist that consisted of jazz music without lyrics.

My mother told me to remove my earphones so that I would be comfortable. I did not listen to her. Besides, the screams of the other women in the labour ward were distracting. She did not know that I was comfortable listening to my music instead of the distracting screams around me.

These women were screaming at the top of their lungs about the pain that they were going through. It seemed as though they were first-time mothers.

In that ward, there were five women in labour including me. I was the last patient to come into the ward.

The woman by my left-hand side had been there the evening before. I met her crying and screaming at intervals when I got into the ward.

The woman by my right was brought in by her husband in the early hours of that morning.

One of the two women across the room, obviously, a Muslim woman was screaming, “Allahuakba!” and at intervals, she would curse her husband for impregnating her and vow never to allow him to touch her again.

Afterwards, she exclaimed that she was tired of the labour pains and that she would opt for a caesarian operation. The nurses tried in vain to calm her down and explain to her that having a CS was expensive but her mind was made up.

The fifth lady was simply shouting, “Jesus!!!” and then she would begin to wail.

As the labour pains grew worse, I carefully removed my earphones and phone and put them in my bag. 

I removed all of my clothing. I just wanted to be naked and comfortable.

I did not bring any drum with me but I needed something to distract me.

So, I drew one of the side cupboards close to me and began to beat heavily on the table beside me to divert my attention away from the pain that I was going through.

One of the nurses said I was disturbing the peace of the hospital. I ignored her and continued drumming. At least, I was not shouting like the other women.

I did this for the next three hours until the doctor came to check on me and said it was time to push. 

My second baby weighed 4.5kg. The doctor said that if she had known that my baby was going to be that big, she would have suggested that I had it via CS.

I did not need a CS. Music gave me the power to push.

It was shortly after my third childbirth that realized that choosing between natural birth and a CS is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The ward where I was placed was full of women who had just had CS. 

Some of them would wail as the wound below their stomach was being treated by the nurses and I would begin to cry.

I told my husband to come and get me quickly. I could not stand the gory sight anymore.

It would have been so nice if they had music to help ease their pain. 

Unfortunately, I could not do that for them. I had to take care of my baby and myself as I had become very weak.

As I was saying, I gave birth before the four women that I met at the ward.

The Muslim woman had been whisked to the theatre for a CS after she continued to persist.

The woman on my left side too decided to opt for a CS and my mother asked her if her husband could afford it. No, he could not. He had just lost his job and she was a first-time mum. 

She was motivated by me. I asked her if she wanted to use my music method and she replied in affirmation.

So, I played my playlists via speaker and told her to concentrate on the music and soon, she was delivered of a baby girl.

After two weeks of childbirth, I discovered that I had begun to suffer the same symptoms that I suffered after my first baby and after the miscarriage in addition to being forgetful.

I found it difficult to comprehend conversations. I had to keep my children close to me so that I would remember to take care of them.

Music school final examination was coming up. I had it deferred by a month so that I could get treated. I could not study. I had forgotten everything that I was taught or probably ever knew.

So, I consulted a psychiatrist at Marcy Children’s Hospital. He diagnosed anti-depressants that would not hinder my breastfeeding. I also supported my recovery with music therapy.

I repeated the psychiatry visits and music therapy for myself for my third son who weighed 4kg at birth. I had him at Ifako General Hospital.

From my labour and natural childbirth experiences, I have discovered that music:

1. Helped me to be focused.   

2.   Gave me a distraction from my pain.

3.   Helped me to maintain my breathing pace according to the rhythm and beat of the music

4.    Acted as a stimulus for my relaxation before, during and after childbirth.

5. Can help to reduce the death of women during childbirth.

Thus, from my experience and observation, I can confidently affirm that music therapy support can contribute to the successful outcome of both natural and CS childbirths by reducing anxiety, pain, creating a positive ambience and support throughout a childbirth experience.

Do you have any music therapy experience? Kindly share in the comment secton.


Musically yours,

DJ Irawo

No comments: