As you get closer and closer to your due date, your days of easy date nights are numbered. So, if you're planning to catch the latest epic film, scary movie, or franchise marathon, you may find yourself asking, ' are movie theaters too loud for pregnant women?
"Pregnant women are not particularly more sensitive to sound," Melissa R. Peskin-Stolze, M.D., tells Romper, so there aren't any special precautions a mom-to-be should make in terms of damaging her own hearing. When it comes to sound, Michele Cherry, D.O., tells Romper that general noise restrictions for pregnant women are the same as anyone else because "excessive loud noise for prolonged periods could cause hearing loss in adults." These restrictions are more focused on exposure to loud noises for extended periods of time (like during a work day/week) rather than the stage of life a person is in.
However, a pregnant woman isn't only looking after herself, she has to consider her baby's health in everyday situations. "[Fetal] auditory pathways come to maturity at about 24 weeks [gestation]," says Dr. Cherry, which means an unborn baby can be just as sensitive to loud noises as anyone else. But, while you can put some ear plugs in, your baby can't. As Dr. Cherry puts it, "there is no method to shield a fetus from environmental noise."
Even though you can't block out sound for your growing baby, movie theaters probably don't pose a risk. Dr. Peskin-Stolze explains that "sitting in a movie theater for two to three hours... is within the recommended time limitations for exposure to loud sounds and short exposure like this should also not affect the fetal hearing." That being said, moms-to-be should still be mindful about how a movie will affect them as individuals. As Dr. Peskin-Stolze says, "loud noises can increase anxiety and stress levels, which can, in turn affect fetal development and maternal health."
Outside of movie theaters, there are some precautions pregnant women should take when it comes to sound exposure. Dr. Cherry says she doesn't "recommend pregnant women go to very loud venues [like a] concert, where they are going to be near speakers or [a] stage." Dr. Peskin-Stolze makes the same recommendations for concerts or festivals. She says there is "limited consensus on the effect of noise exposure on birth weight and length of gestation" (some studies show a correlation between the two, others don't) and that more research is needed.
Since studies are inconclusive, it's better for moms to err on the side of caution when it comes to noise exposure. If you're going to a concert or loud event, Dr. Peskin-Stolze recommends utilizing tools like the health app on the iPhone which "has an entire section... devoted to hearing health [and] environmental noise exposure" or relying on "the Apple Watch [to] notify you when sounds are greater than 80dB."
While there are plenty of ways to take precautions and be aware of the noise levels around you, feel free to relax during your movie date because it's unlikely that the volume will exceed a safe threshold. Enjoy it now, because the sounds of an epic film will seem like a whisper once you're introduced to the ear-piercing scream of a hungry infant.
Michele Cherry, D.O., OBGYN at Marshall Medical Center
Melissa R. Peskin-Stolze, M.D., Generalist OBGYN and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine