Should Pregnant Women Refrain from Loud Noises?

Loud Noises During Pregnancy – Do They Hurt the Unborn Baby?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnant women considering attending a music concert may wonder about the potential impact of loud noises on their developing baby. The concern revolves around whether the fetus is sensitive to, or negatively affected by, the intense sound levels commonly experienced at concerts. Research suggests that while a developing baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid and the mother’s body provides some protection, prolonged exposure to loud noises can potentially lead to stress for the unborn child. Therefore, it is advisable for expectant mothers to be cautious and consider alternatives or take precautions such as wearing ear protection to mitigate potential risks during such events. Read on to know the effects of loud music during pregnancy.

When Do Babies Start Hearing in the Womb?

Somewhere around your fifth month of pregnancy or around 18 weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s inner ear also known as cochlea will be fully formed, which will be the basis of your baby’s hearing mechanism (1). This means that your little munchkin will be capable of hearing what you may be hearing, though not on the same level. You may even notice that any kind of loud noise may trigger a reaction from your baby and you may find your baby move with a startle or you may feel a jumpy thud in your belly.

Are Unborn Babies Protected Against Loud Sounds?

Your baby’s ears are well protected by your stomach muscles, the placenta, and the amniotic fluid. Therefore, the sounds that your baby hears may be all muffled and softer. However, every pregnancy and baby is different, and it is not known what kind of intensity of noise may be fatal for your baby’s ears (2). Thus, it is better to be careful and cautious when it comes to loud noises while pregnant. Also, loud noises in pregnancy may not be good for the expecting mom because it may cause the production of stress hormones. The stress hormones may raise the mother’s heart rate which is again not good for the baby.

What Kind of Sounds Are Dangerous for Pregnant Women?

Constant exposure to loud noises for longer durations may result in hearing loss in the growing foetus. Therefore, in order to protect your unborn baby, you must stay away from the following kinds of noises, which may be dangerous for a pregnant woman (3):

  • Refrain from going to a firing area or range.
  • In case you are planning on attending any concert which involves loud music, refrain from sitting in the front row.
  • Stay away from the regular exposure to the loud noises of jet planes.
  • Do not work in a place where you hear loud noise more than 80 decibels on a regular basis.

Recommended Noise Level for Pregnant Women

Defining a specific, safe sound pressure level for pregnant women, measured in decibels, is challenging. Sounds have the potential to travel through the body and impact the developing baby. While some experts suggest avoiding continuous exposure to sounds exceeding 115 decibels (similar to a chainsaw noise) during pregnancy, maintaining a noise level significantly below this threshold is advisable. A Swedish nationwide prospective cohort study demonstrated that occupational noise exceeding 85 decibels led to fetal growth reduction, particularly in full-time working mothers (4).

It is prudent for pregnant women to limit exposure to noises below 85 decibels to prevent potential adverse effects on both themselves and their fetuses.

How Can Loud Noise Harm the Foetus?

If you are wondering can loud noise hurt a foetus, the answer is yes; loud noises may harm the foetus in the following ways (5):

1. It May Startle the Baby

Any kind of loud sound or loud music during pregnancy may startle your baby. As a mother, you’d notice this. Whenever you will be exposed to loud noises, it may cause your baby to move rapidly in the womb or she may register intense foetal movements.

2. It May Affect Your Baby’s Hearing

Loud music or sounds may affect the hearing ability of the unborn baby. This is because a human can bear up to 80 decibels of sounds and any sound above this level may pose a potent threat to the hearing ability. Music concerts, jet planes, or places with heavy machinery, may produce a much higher frequency of sound (110 decibels or more), which may cause damage to your baby’s hearing.

3. It May Cause Foetal Abnormalities

Any kind of exposure to loud noises in the first trimester of pregnancy or in later stages may pose a great threat to foetal abnormalities. This is because constant exposure to loud noises may lead to hypertension or stress in the expectant mother. These conditions have a direct impact on foetal development and may lead to various congenital abnormalities.

It May Cause Foetal Abnormalities

4. It May Induce Stress in Babies

In various studies conducted on rhesus monkeys and rats, it was observed that consistent exposure to loud noises resulted in increased amounts of cortisol and corticotrophin in the foetus. The rise in the level of these hormones is indicative of increased stress levels. Some monkey babies exhibited abnormal social behaviour, too. However, there has been no substantial study that supports that loud noise inducing stress in the growing foetus, but it adversely affected the lactogen levels of the mother.

5. It May Cause Changes in Foetal Brain Structure

In various studies conducted on different animals, it was established that loud music or loud noise of any kind might affect or cause changes in the foetal brain structure. However, similar kinds of results are expected in human babies too. Therefore, try to stay away from loud noises during pregnancy.

6. It May Increase the Risk of Preterm or Premature Babies

There are many reasons that may cause your baby to be born much before his due date, and exposure to loud noise is one of them. In some studies, it was observed that consistent exposure to loud noise might reduce the gestation period from the 40 weeks to 37 weeks.

The above-mentioned are some of the ill effects of being exposed to loud noise during pregnancy. As stated above, some of the studies do not have substantial claims supporting the ill effects of loud noise, but it is always better to exercise caution when it concerns your baby.

Can You Listen to Soft Sounds or Soft Music During Pregnancy?

There is no doubt that music is one thing that really makes us feel pepped up and happy. However, you might wonder if you can listen to your favourite music during pregnancy or not. The answer is yes, you can listen to music during pregnancy provided you listen to it at a lower volume or within authorised limits. Contrary to loud music, softer music has a positive impact on the mother and on her unborn baby. Music which is played at 70 decibels or lower levels than that has proved to very effective in providing calming effects to the mother and her baby (6). You can pick up any music or songs that you like and play that music and enjoy.

Prevention of Noise Exposure During Pregnancy

Pregnant women need to be mindful of various factors that can influence the well-being of both themselves and their developing babies. One such consideration is exposure to excessive noise, which can potentially impact fetal development. Taking the following precautions to prevent noise-related risks during pregnancy is crucial for ensuring a healthy environment for the mother and the unborn child.

  • It is essential for expectant mothers to be informed about the potential risks associated with high levels of noise during pregnancy. Understanding the impact on fetal development can empower women to make informed choices and take necessary precautions.
  • Pregnant women should actively seek to minimize exposure to loud environments such as concerts, construction sites, or excessively noisy workplaces. Choosing quieter settings whenever possible contributes to a more tranquil environment for the developing fetus.
  • When circumstances require being in noisy environments, wearing ear protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, can significantly reduce the intensity of sound reaching the fetus. 
  • Utilizing noise monitoring devices or smartphone apps can aid pregnant women in assessing the noise levels in their surroundings. This awareness enables them to make real-time decisions about staying in or leaving an environment with potentially harmful noise levels.
  • Pregnant women who work in environments with high noise levels should communicate with their employers to explore possible accommodations. This may involve adjusting work schedules, providing quieter workspaces, or offering additional protective measures to ensure a safe working environment for both mother and child.
  • Chronic exposure to loud noises can contribute to stress, which may impact both the mother and the developing baby. Incorporating stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or prenatal yoga can be beneficial in promoting a calmer and more supportive environment during pregnancy.

FAQs

1. Can Shouting in Pregnancy Affect My Baby?

Shouting occasionally is unlikely to have a significant impact on the baby. However, chronic exposure to loud noises, including shouting, may contribute to stress. It’s advisable for pregnant women to minimize prolonged exposure to intense sounds to promote a more tranquil environment for fetal development.

2. Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned About Everyday Noise Levels Such as Traffic or Household Sounds?

Everyday noise levels like traffic or household sounds are generally not harmful unless they are extremely loud and persistent. While routine noises are usually not a cause for concern, pregnant women should still be mindful of their environment. If possible, limiting exposure to excessively loud or continuous noises and employing protective measures, such as earplugs, can contribute to a more comfortable and secure pregnancy.

So, this was all about the effects of loud noises in pregnancy first, second and third trimesters. Various studies are still in progress to establish the ill effects of loud noise on the growing foetus. However, staying away from loud sounds and music can do no harm. Therefore, stay away from places where there is noise, turn that stereo down to a low volume, and skip that rock concert until your baby arrives.

References/Resources:

1. Fetal development: The 2nd trimester; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/fetal-development/art-20046151

2. Krueger. C, Horesh. E, Crosland. B; Safe Sound Exposure in the Fetus and Preterm Infant (Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing); National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665292/; March 2012

3. Noise – Reproductive Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/noise.html

4. Selander. J, Rylander. L, Albin. M, et. al.; Full-time exposure to occupational noise during pregnancy was associated with reduced birth weight in a nationwide cohort study of Swedish women (Science of The Total Environment); Science Direct; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971833657X; February 2019

5. Thakur. N, Batra. P, Gupta. P; Noise as a Health Hazard for Children: Time to Make a Noise about it; Indian Pediatrics; https://www.indianpediatrics.net/feb2016/feb-111-114.htm

6. Güven. S, Tas. M, Bulut. E, et. al.; Does Noise Exposure during Pregnancy Affect Neonatal Hearing Screening Results? (Noise & Health); National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158898/; March 2020

7. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss

Also Read: 

Crying in Pregnancy
Effects of Fighting while Pregnant
Benefits of Laughing during Pregnancy

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