Music and Motherhood

Initial trial exploring the impact of singing for symptoms of postnatal depression

Partnership with Centre for Performance Science (Imperial College London and Royal College of Music)

Post-natal depression (PND) is thought to affect at least 13% of new mothers, with factors such as a lack of social support known to be a contributing factor. In this project we used multiple approaches to investigate if and how group singing can support women with symptoms of PND. This included a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with 134 mums experiencing symptoms of PND. Women were randomly allocated to one of three programmes for a period of ten weeks:

  1. group singing
  2. creative play
  3. care as normal

Their symptoms of PND were measured at the start, after six weeks, and at the end of the programmes.

As part of the RCT, interviews were held with the mums and with the programme leaders. Separate experiments were conducted to measure the impact of group singing on stress hormones and perceived mother-baby closeness. Finally, surveys were completed by over 2,000 women across England. These explored links between involvement in creative activities and mental wellbeing during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.

Key findings

  • For mums with moderate-severe symptoms of PND, the group singing programme led to significantly faster recovery than creative play or care as normal. After just six weeks of singing, these mums had experienced a decrease of nearly 35% in their symptoms. 65% no longer had moderate-severe symptoms.
  • Group singing is linked with greater increases in perceived mother-baby closeness in comparison to other social interactions as well as greater decreases in cortisol, a stress hormone, than other social interactions.
  • Singing during pregnancy and post-birth on a daily basis is linked with a reduced risk of developing PND as well as enhanced wellbeing and self-esteem.

A full list of publications can be found here.

Impact and media

The research has been reported extensively in the international press and is regularly cited as an example of best practice evaluation in the arts and health field.  The social enterprise Breathe Arts Health Research have already put the new findings into practice; they launched the very successful Melodies for Mums service in London in 2018, which has now supported around 500 women (at Oct 2022) and has also reached other parts of the UK.  The project is now also part of the SHAPER study and has informed the WHO Music and Motherhood project across Europe.


Arts Council England

Programme area

Clinical trials and implementation science




ChelWest NHS Foundation Trust
RCM Sparks
RCM Creative Careers Centre


Dr Rosie Perkins (Royal College of Music)
Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL)

Research Team

Penny Osmond
Zoe Palmer
Diana Roberts (Royal College of Music)
Sarah Yorke (Royal College of Music)