Acoustic and Aerodynamic Impacts of Pregnancy on the Classically Trained Soprano Voice
Dickson, Marion K. R.
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Questions surrounding the unknown can often encroach on a woman’s psyche as she considers how life can change when pregnancy occurs. Enquiries based on the changing body often arise; for the classical singer, whose body also serves as a keenly trained instrument, these enquiries become more specific. Questions regarding pregnancy and the professional singer include: how might the vocal range change; will the vibrato rate change, and if so, might that affect pitch accuracy; how may agility be compromised; might maximum phonation time be altered, if at all; how might the respiration process be compromised as the gestation period increases; and how may the duration of energy change when considering general vocal and physical activity in performance? Anecdotal claims on the impact of pregnancy on the professionally trained classical singing voice may affect whether or not a professional singer chooses to bear children. Through providing additional data to the currently limited amount of information on the topic, this study hopes to aid those interested in familial life while maintaining a professional classical singing career. The introduction will provide background information that includes a physiological overview of the process of singing. This will aid in the comprehension of the study that will follow in chapter three, and will define important physiological aspects of the respiratory and phonatory process. Beginning with respiration, discussion begins with breathing to sustain life, and continues to explore respiration in regards to the various levels of speech, singing, and singing during pregnancy. Phonation aspects are surveyed, including laryngeal valving, subglottal pressure, and phonatory threshold pressure. The overview of acoustics includes material concerning agility, range, and perturbation values. As the topic of singing and pregnancy has recently begun to arise as a point of investigation in professional literature, the first chapter will also include a brief survey of currently available data. To gain a more complete understanding of the function of the voice during pregnancy, a brief overview on hormonal influences on the voice during pregnancy, as well as typical physiological experiences associated with pregnancy, will first be explored. Next, to introduce pregnancy and the relationship to the voice, the article “Effect of Pregnancy on the Speaking Voice,” found in the Journal of Voice, Volume 23, in 2009, will be surveyed. The main topics of three published case studies that focused on singers during the third trimester of pregnancy will be discussed. These studies provide an excellent point of comparison to the current study, and offer great insight to voice professionals who are interested in learning more about gravidity and its effects on the singing voice. The current study seeks to provide additional insight about the impact of pregnancy on classical singers. After a description of the participant, followed by an exploration of the study’s methods and materials, the data regarding the participant’s physiological capacity throughout the third trimester and 10 weeks postpartum will be analyzed. Each of the measures, which include acoustic and aerodynamic values, will be addressed to observe what limits or effects gravidity had, if any, on the participant’s performance.