What do you get when you put a bunch of new moms and their babies in a room? Hopefully a whole lot of singing. According to recent research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, group singing sessions with babies could help postpartum depression, which affects as many as one in nine new mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The BBC reported that these sessions actually speed up the recovery process, which can limit the negative effects on both the mother and the baby.
"Post-natal depression is debilitating for mothers and their families, yet our research indicates that, for some women, something as accessible as singing with their baby could help to speed up recovery," said principal investigator behind the study, Dr. Rosie Perkins, according to the BBC.
The researchers separated 134 mothers with postpartum depression into three groups: one group that had singing sessions together, one group that had creative play sessions together, and one group that received usual care such as family support, antidepressants, and mindfulness practice.
All of the mothers who were coping with moderate to severe symptoms of postpartum depression in the study saw gradual improvements over the 10-week study, but, among the three groups, the mothers who sang lullabies and songs from around the world with their babies (and came up with entirely new songs about motherhood together) had a faster recovery. In the first six weeks, they'd already reported an average 35 percent decrease in depressive symptoms, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, no perceptible differences between those in the creative play workshop and the usual care group were evident, Sky News reported.
Dr. Daisy Fancourt, lead author of the study from the University College London, said that many mothers have concerns about using medication to treat depression, and so "these results are really exciting as they suggest that something as simple as referring mothers to community activities could support their recovery," according to the BBC.
Recovery is vital for women to resume normalcy in their lives after having children because feelings of postpartum depression are "more intense and last longer" than postpartum worries and exhaustion (or the "baby blues"), according to the CDC. The symptoms of postpartum depression include crying an unusual amount, anger, withdrawal from loved ones, extreme worry about the baby, feeling distant from the baby, worry about hurting the baby, worry about not being a good parent, and doubt regarding abilities to care for the baby, the CDC reported.
These symptoms can be isolating, paralyzing and, ultimately, detrimental to the health of both the mother and baby. The CDC recommends seeking treatment if you are experiencing emotional changes or think that you may be depressed.
Some mothers told Sky News about their experiences with singing as a form of treatment. Gail Barnes, for one, said that, while she was nervous to go to the group sessions without her family, singing had made a massive difference in her life.
"Before, it had felt like I was just getting through each day with him; it was monotonous and lonely," she said, according to Sky News. "But here there were other mums, screaming babies, and we were all in it together."
Likewise, another mother Amelia Foster, told Sky News that she found music groups to be more sociable than play groups because they have a group goal and some structure.
"I found at other play groups you could be isolated, but with singing groups, there's a real team effort," she explained, according to Sky News.
Postpartum depression can also affect dads, the Scientific American reported. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that around 10 percent of men report symptoms of depression following the birth of a child, which is about double the usual rate of male depression. But more research needs to be done to see if singing groups would help fathers, too.