Singing mama ready to forge a path to better maternal health

Singing mama ready to forge a path to better maternal health

592
Byford’s Nicole George is excited to bring the Singing Mamas revolution to WA.

A revolutionary, grassroots singing movement which is proven to better the health and wellbeing of mothers is coming to Western Australia for the first time.

Byford-based singing teacher Nicole George was already well-versed in the healing power of community singing, with certification in vocal teaching based on neuroscience.

“I have a really strong holistic focus – I train the whole singer,” she said.

But during a deep dive one day she stumbled across Singing Mamas.

The first group was established in the UK in 2010 by nurse and mother Kate Valentine.

After moving away from her home, she struggled to find a choir where her young children would also be welcomed, so, she created one of her own.

Since then, the idea has ballooned to a fully-fledged not-for-profit which encompasses over 100 similar groups worldwide, and with a guiding mission to improve maternal mental health.

“We exist because suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and one year after birth and because singing is clinically proven to reduce symptoms of postnatal depression faster than the usual forms of treatment,” the Singing Mamas mission statement reads.

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) confirms “thoughts of suicide are common during pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life” and that “suicide is a leading cause of maternal death” here too, which is supported by research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and a recent study by Brisbane Mater Mother’s Hospital.

Nicole said that statistic haunted her.

“The thought just wouldn’t leave me alone,” she said.

“And the more I read into it the more I realised that this is needed here in WA.

“I thought it was a good idea to follow something I’m passionate about and improve the wellbeing of women in our community.

“So, I reached out to see if I could facilitate the first Singing Mamas here.”

At 10.30am each Friday from July 19, women of all descriptions (not just new mothers) are welcome to meet at the Bill Hicks Pavilion in Byford for an hour of singing in a circle, followed by a cuppa, cake and casual conversation. Children are obviously welcome too.

But it’s not a traditional choir – there’s no sheet music, no solos, no performances, and no pressure. Singing is taken back to its roots – with songs taught using a traditional call-and-response method.

As a classically trained musician, Nicole has gone through a huge mind-shift during the training to become a Singing Mamas group leader.

“One of the tenets of the group is that singing music is for everyone. A woman walks into the room with every resource she needs,” she said.

“But in our society, we’ve glorified talent, and there’s so much emphasis placed on loud, strong singing, reinforced by programs like The Voice.

“In the 21 years since I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen people stop singing to their babies. They say – ‘oh no, I don’t have a good voice’. But your baby thinks the world of you and loves your voice.

“And singing to our children is the foundation of early speech development – it models early speech patterns, cadence and rhythm.

“I want to reach people who would never have thought to join a choir.

“I want to reach people who just want to sing because it’s good for your soul.”

And it’s not kumbaya quackery – the program is having tangible benefits overseas.

A 2018 randomised trial on 134 women with postnatal depression found that after completing a ten-week course of Singing Mamas, those with moderate to severe symptoms showed significant improvement. A similar 2021 study in Dusseldorf drew the same conclusions.

And Singing Mamas has partnered with the NHS in the UK, and ‘singing on prescription’ is now offered to perinatal women (pregnant and postnatal mothers) struggling with their mental health.

Nicole hopes to create a Singing Mamas revolution right here.

“I just want people to be really brave,” she said.

“And I hope people feel empowered enough to go on to become facilitators across Perth.”

To register your interest, visit breakthroughstudiosbyford.weebly.com

Nicole is currently trying to secure donations to offer sponsored places for women struggling financially.