Does Pregnancy Affect Your Voice?May 03, 2023
Does pregnancy affect the voice? Today’s special episode was produced by Jillian Mitchell, recording artist, vocal coach, author, mom, and founder of Voxana, a platform celebrating the interconnectivity of our human instrument in singing, speaking, and writing. She interviewed our own Dr. Alicia Power about the role pregnancy plays on our human instrument as it changes and grows, especially how it affects our energy, movement, and voice! Let’s begin by breaking down the changes in our body per trimester and how it may affect your creative work.
The first trimester often brings on nausea. This can often be managed through food and nutrition. Ginger lozenges can offer relief, as well as vitamin B6, folic acid, sour foods such as green apples, or adding citrus to water. Having an empty stomach can add to nausea, so snacks throughout the day are encouraged, especially pairing proteins with carbohydrates, like cheese and crackers! Maintaining food in the belly also helps avoid spikes in blood sugars.
Be a little extra cautious in pregnancy when it comes to food safety guidelines. It is recommended that all cheese is pasteurized and all meat and fish is properly and well cooked. This would mean avoiding foods such as sushi or big fish that are high up the food chain and thus accumulate more mercury. Caffeine is a diuretic and it is important to balance it out with hydration. But it is okay to consume all of these things using common sense and in moderation! It can be more detrimental to be overly cautious and constrictive to the point of creating added anxiety for yourself. If you are feeling extra anxious, find sources you can trust, talk to friends who have likely gone through similar feelings, try meditation, and perhaps most importantly, avoid going doing google rabbit holes. Here are a few resources we recommend!
- Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong--and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster
- She Found Motherhood Podcast: Nutrition and Preparing for Pregnancy!
Second trimester often comes with a renewal of energy, and a lot of symptoms from the first trimester go away (such as nausea). A lot of people report feeling better, but keep in mind not to push your body too hard. Your physical body is shifting, but you can usually go back to your “work routine” and get done what you’d like to get done!
Your blood pressure is naturally lower in both the first and second trimester, so you’re more likely to faint. Exercise caution if you’re standing still for long periods of time, or with lots of quick up and down movement. An increase in salt intake, paired with good hydration, can help. Consider compression socks to maintain blood circulation! But again, try not to become hypervigilant to the point of more anxiety as these changes occur. You are doing great.
Some bigger changes start to take place in the third trimester. Deep breaths become more difficult, and often you may resort to chest breathing. Overall breath support is reduced. Swelling comes on everywhere - including the vocal chords - which can cause a shift toward a lower vocal range. Swelling can cause blood vessels in the larynx to burst, or tear, if you push it too much. Swelling in the mucosa of nasal passages and sinuses, can cause decreased resonance and difficulty placing sound in the mask. Good warm-ups and steam can help. Anti-inflammatory steroids will not help because of the extra fluid all around the body present in the third trimester. Decreased lung capacity will also become an issue as the baby is pushing up on the stomach, also potentially causing heartburn.
You’ll notice a noticeable shift in posture and balance. Due to an increase of a hormone called relaxin, the pelvic and body and whole body may feel “looser”, affecting posture and balance. Although you may feel more flexible, you can also be more prone to injury. However an expanded pelvic floor can bring a deepness to vocal use! Consider pelvic physio to reconnect the core connection between your diaphragm, pelvic floor and core postpartum.
Another change that occurs is called diastasis recti, the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles that run vertically along the front of the stomach, during and after pregnancy. Due to this, it is important not to push those muscles because it can make it worse. Deep breath exercises will help reconnect the core!
Let’s first talk about the emotional changes that occur in the postpartum period - also called the fourth trimester - as they can be challenging and difficult to navigate without proper support. Often people experience baby blues, which are defined as bouts of emotion in the first to 5-7 days postpartum. They can manifest as sudden bursts of crying when you are overall feeling happy. This happens and is nothing to worry about! If emotional swings last more than two or so weeks postpartum, you feel like you are not enjoying time with your baby or are struggling with motivation, these may be signs of a deeper issue such as postpartum depression or anxiety. Intrusive thoughts, while also completely natural and extremely common, should be addressed if they’re preventing you from doing things you need to or normally would - for example, not being able to take baby to a doctor’s appointment because you’re too worried you’ll get into a car accident even though you’ve never been in one before. Talk to your provider if such emotional symptoms last for more than a week. Remember you are not alone, and there are a lot of supports available such as postpartum groups, one-on-one psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to name a few!
Give yourself time and grace postpartum. Your body will come back to its ‘normal’ state with time. While that process is occurring, some supports that can help are breast-pads for catching milk that is released naturally when it is time for another feed (or if a baby starts crying) due to a process called a letdown! Bladder control may also be an issue, and we recommend pads, leak-proof underwear such as Knix, or a pessary to help you return to performing confidently in public. Pelvic floor physio can be extremely helpful in reconnecting all of those core muscles that were loosened and expanded in pregnancy and childbirth! While breastfeeding, increase your water intake to stay appropriately hydrated.
With each change our body goes through, while performing the amazing feat of growing another human, try to exercise grace and patience with it and yourself. And consider these supports to help you along the way. You’ve got this!
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