Alexandra Petropoulos finds out more about Babypod, the bizarre device that has redefined how unborn babies listen to music
Move over Mozart for Babies, there’s a new way for your wee ones to listen to all the music you love; Babypod, a bizarre intravaginal device that plays music directly to foetuses.
This speaker, which is designed to be inserted vaginally, was developed by the Spanish gynaecological clinic Institut Marquès as a more direct approach for sonic stimulation for foetuses, and can be used as early as the 16th week of pregnancy.
Viable research into the positive effects of sound on foetuses has long been debated, though it is generally accepted that unborn babies do respond to music and there are several different prenatal speakers on the market that are designed specifically for use with pregnant women. However, Institut Marquès have cited research that claims that devices such as external prenatal speakers only provide extremely muffled audio to the foetus.
Dr Alex Garcia-Faura, the scientific director of Institut Marquès, notes that when using external speakers “there’s a loss of intensity through the abdominal wall of around 40 decibels, and only 35% of the phonemes will be able to reach the amniotic fluid because of distortion… so external sound or music will get through the abdominal wall as a distorted whisper.” True sonic clarity, she claims, is therefore only possible via an internal speaker.
Dr Garcia-Faura goes on to explain that in initial clinical trials at the Institut Marquès, which focused on the effects of music during the early stages of life, when they applied music to pregnant patients using abdominal speakers “there was no foetal reaction to music… We thought that it would be necessary to get the music closer to the foetus, and we decided to apply the music vaginally.”
Once music was applied internally, they noticed that 87% of foetuses moved their mouth or tongue and about half of them reacted with a ‘striking movement’ by ‘opening the jaw and sticking out the tongue.’
“For the first time ever, we were able to get from the foetus a specific response (speech movements) under a specific stimulus (music). That was amazing,” Dr Garcia-Faura enthuses. “It’s incredible to be able to communicate with a human being that is only 16 weeks old and 10cm long!”
‘Communicate’ might be stretching the term a tad, but for expecting parents who wish to share their unborn child’s musical experience, Babypod comes with a headphone jack.
The speakers play an average of 54 decibels, which is roughly the equivalent of a quiet conversation. Thankfully, I think its safe to say that babies aren’t too fussed about the hi-fi quality of their prenatal music.
Babypod celebrated its launch over Christmas with the first concert for foetuses, where 2009 Spanish Eurovision contestant Soraya Arnelas performed for ten pregnant women. Arnelas said of the show, “I never imagined that I would play to such a young audience! It’s fantastic to see how important music is in our lives, even before we are born.”
Now all we need is a suggested playlist for your unborn baby. Might I suggest some Ludwig van Bun-in-the-oven? Or maybe ‘Bridge Over Broken Water’?