Here’s why – You’ll need your voice to sing to your baby after he or she is born, but if you’re having trouble singing Christmas carols while pregnant, don’t be surprised.

One of the most dramatic hormonal fluctuations occurs during pregnancy, and many professional singers have experienced difficulty singing while pregnant. However, scientists do not know if this effect is due to hormones or to some other cause, such as decreased lung capacity as the baby grows.

In order to test the effect of hormones on a pregnant singer’s voice, Portuguese researcher Filipa La followed a professionally-trained Portuguese singer through 12 weeks of pregnancy and for 12 weeks after birth. Once a week, including just two days after the baby was born, she recorded the singer reading and singing into a device that measures the pressure exerted to make each sound and found that the increased levels of hormones correlated with changes to the singer’s vocal folds. Though temporary, the changes forced the singer to exert more pressure from her lungs to make the same notes.

The question of how hormones affect a woman’s voice is relevant to professional singers because hormonal fluctuations may place them at risk of injury. Knowing when the risks are greatest would help singers avoid performing at those times, in the same way that a track star with a bad knee will sit out a competition.

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