Music therapy for placenta accreta patients amid the pandemic

Music brings emotion to any situation, and many rely on music and sound for therapeutic reasons. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baylor’s Christina Reed saw a place for music therapy for obstetric and gynecology patients.

Reed is director of operations of the placenta accreta spectrum care team in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Placenta accreta is a rare, serious condition in which the placenta grows into the uterus, instead of laying on the surface of the uterus. Typically, the placenta peels off after childbirth, however, with placenta accreta, the placenta cannot detach. This can cause life-threatening blood loss post-delivery, so most women with this condition are typically scheduled to deliver via C-section at 33 to 34 weeks.

Their babies spend an average of 30 days in the NICU, meaning new moms are separated from their newborns for weeks. What’s more, the age of COVID-19 has required new procedures, like limited visitors, and women now are without the extended support system they often rely on during this time.

Reed learned that Todd Frazier, director of center for performing arts medicine at Methodist Hospital, was using music therapy for COVID-19 patients and decided to evolve the idea for placenta accreta patients.

She connected with the music therapy department at Texas Children’s to discover ways to increase connectivity between mothers and their babies. After working with Alexandra (Alix) Brickley, a music therapist, the two decided to record a mother’s heartbeat and overlay a lullaby on top of the recording. They also integrated special messages into the song from the mother and baby’s siblings to speak directly to baby. The finished recording was placed inside a teddy bear to play for the baby while in the NICU.

“The mother was able to actively participate in creating a one-of-a-kind message that is specifically unique between mother and baby. The baby was able to continue her connection with her mother by listening to her heartbeat with soothing music in the background,” Reed said.

The team wanted to do more to continue decreasing stress and anxiety for placenta accreta patients going into surgery. Earbuds and an Apple iPod Shuffle with music from their favorite artists, as well as added special messages from family for encouragement, were given to the patient to alleviate the anxiety during their hospital stay and surgery.

“When a patient goes into the OR at the beginning of the surgery, she is alone with the surgical team without her partner or family members. During this time she is getting an epidural and prepped for surgery, which can be uncomfortable and daunting,” Reed said. “To be able to offer this to moms to ease anxiety is huge.”

When mothers endure an accreta case, not only are they having a C-section, but most have a hysterectomy at the same time. Placenta accreta has a high morbidity and mortality rate, and mothers can no longer bare children after the surgery. Mothers are unable to see their babies for at least 24 to 48 hours after surgery due to their surgical incision and close monitoring by the Critical Care Unit, making mobility very difficult. Making these mothers comfortable and at ease is crucial, as they go through much of this process without loved ones.

Moving forward, they hope to provide music therapy consults to more families to improve recovery and outcomes for both mother and baby.

“Moms in high-stress situations can all benefit from music therapy. It’s very stressful physically and emotionally, so we want to make this available for all women delivering. It’s so simple, but it has a lot of potential and benefits for the mom and baby.”

By Homa Shalchi