Breathe Melodies for Mums - Breathe

Our Research

Breathe Melodies for Mums

In a collaboration between researchers, musicians, and healthcare professionals, research provides solid evidence that group singing can support maternal wellbeing

Breathe Melodies for Mums was built on a robust research programme led by the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London, funded by Arts Council England.

Research approach

The research used multiple approaches to investigate if and how group singing can support women with symptoms of postnatal depression (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:

  • group singing
  • creative play
  • 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.

Breathe Melodies for Mums holds a special place in my heart. It lifted me out of the place I was in, which was quite a low state. Now I’m not in it, I can’t quite remember the ins and outs of how I felt after my son was born, but I remember how Breathe Melodies for Mums made me feel. That’s how special this programme is to me.
Jenny, Breathe Melodies for Mums Participant Read more

Research results: Benefits of singing for PND 

The research showed that singing can have multiple benefits: 

  • For mums with moderate-severe symptoms of PND, the group singing programme led to significantly faster recovery than creative play or care as normalAfter just six weeks of singingthese mums had experienced a decrease of nearly 35% in their symptoms65% no longer had moderate-severe symptoms 
  • Group singing is linked with greater increases in perceived mother-baby closeness in comparison to other social interactions.  
  • Group singing with other mums is associated with greater decreases in cortisol, a stress hormone, than other social interactions.  
  • Singing to babies daily is linked with fewer symptoms of PND as well as enhanced wellbeing and self-esteem. 

Women reported that singing supported them in five unique ways, which help to explain the results above. It provided:

  • An authentic, inclusive, and social creative activity.
  • A way to calm their baby.
  • Me-time that allowed them to be immersed in an activity.
  • A sense of achievement and identity.
  • Enhanced feelings of closeness with their baby.


Results show participation can lead to recovery of postnatal depression in 73% mothers who take part

Research to practice 

Breathe’s 2017 Lambeth-based Breathe Melodies for Mums programme was the first ever translation of this research into practice. It uses the same structure and set-up for the singing groups that was developed in the original research. Since 2017, Breathe Melodies for Mums has expanded across the UK. It is now offered in six- and ten-week programmes, both in-person and online. Breathe Melodies for Mums has continued to further evidence the benefits of singing on PND symptoms.

Ongoing research  

Breathe Melodies for Mums is currently being delivered as part of a new research study funded by Wellcome TrustThe Scaling-Up Health-Arts Programmes: Implementation and Effectiveness Research – Postnatal Depression (SHAPER-PND) study. This research will involve 200 mothers and their babies, investigating how group singing can support mental and social health as well as stress. This is the largest-scale research to date on singing and PND.  Results are due to be published Autumn 2024.

Preceding this and during the pandemic, we delivered sessions online as part of the SHAPER-PNDO (Online) study, looking at how online group singing can support mental health during times of social isolation.  Initial results on feasibility, clinical efficacy and well-being outcomes were published in 2023, with further qualitative findings due to be published in 2024.

Current Research Protocols

Bind, R.H., Estevao, C., Fancourt, al.Online singing interventions for postnatal depression in times of social isolation: a feasibility study protocol for the SHAPER-PNDO single-arm trial.Pilot Feasibility Stud8, 148 (2022). Read it here.

Estevao C, Bind R, Fancourt D, et al. SHAPER-PND trial: clinical effectiveness protocol of a community singing intervention for postnatal depression. BMJ Open 2021;11:e052133. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052133. Read it here.

Warran K, Smith C, Ugron H, et al. Scalability of a singing-based intervention for postpartum depression in Denmark and Romania: protocol for a single-arm feasibility study. BMJ Open 2022;12:e063420. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-063420 . Read it here.

Published Research

Bind, R.H., Sawyer, K., Hazelgrove, K. et al. Feasibility, clinical efficacy, and well-being outcomes of an online singing intervention for postnatal depression in the UK: SHAPER-PNDO, a single-arm clinical trial. Pilot Feasibility Stud 9, 131 (2023). Read it here.

Fancourt, D., & Perkins, R. (2018). Effect of singing interventions on symptoms of postnatal depression: Three-arm randomised controlled trial.The British Journal of Psychiatry,212(2), 119-121. doi:10.1192/bjp.2017.29. Read it here.

Our Partners


Fancourt D & Perkins R (2019), Creative interventions for symptoms of postnatal depression: a process evaluation of implementation, Arts & Health, 11, 38-53 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Does attending community music interventions lead to changes in wider musical behaviours? The effect of mother-infant singing classes on musical behaviours amongst mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, Psychology of Music, 47, 132-143 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Could listening to music during pregnancy be protective against postnatal depression and poor wellbeing post birth? Longitudinal associations from a preliminary prospective cohort study, BMJ Open, 8 (e021251), 1-8 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), The effect of singing interventions on symptoms of postnatal depression: a three-arm randomised controlled trial, British Journal of Psychiatry, 212, 119-121 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Maternal engagement with music up to nine months post-birth: findings from a cross-sectional study in England, Psychology of Music, 46, 238-251 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2018), Singing for mother-infant bonding: the effects of mother-infant singing on emotional closeness, affect and anxiety, Music & Science, 1 [DOI]. 

Fancourt D & Perkins R (2017), Associations between singing to babies and symptoms of postnatal depression, wellbeing, self-esteem and mother-infant bond, Public Health, 145, 149-152 [DOI]. 

Perkins R, Yorke S, & Fancourt D (2018), Learning to facilitate arts-in-health programmes: a case study of musicians facilitating creative interventions for mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, International Journal of Music Education, 36, 644-658[DOI]. 

Perkins R, Yorke S, & Fancourt D (2018), How group singing facilitates recovery from the symptoms of postnatal depression: A comparative qualitative study, BMC Psychology, 6 (41), 1-12 [DOI]. 

By supporting our work, you're enabling us to reach more people with our creative healthcare programmes