The Influence of the Menstrual Cycle and the Oral Contraceptive Pill on the Female Operatic Singing Voice

Filipa Lã1, Jane Davidson1, William Ledger2, David Howard3

Music Department, University of Sheffield - 1; Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, University of Sheffield - 2; Electronics Department, University of York - 3, U.K.

The purpose of the research is to study the effects of the menstrual cycle and the intake of a third generation oral contraceptive pill (OCP) on the quality of the operatic singing voice.

This study involved two major assessments: (i) a preliminary questionnaire assessing the singer’s perception of vocal changes associated with specific phases of the menstrual cycle and the intake of an oral contraceptive pill; (ii) an experiment involving 10 young healthy operatic singers, who took a placebo and a third generation oral contraceptive pill, Yasmin?, following a double blind randomized placebo controlled trial.

The perceptual evaluation of vocal changes in female operatic singers involved 102 participants from five different music colleges in the U.K. The responses were obtained and analyzed concerning the following parameters: the number of singers complaining about vocal changes associated with the menstrual cycle; the vocal symptoms mostly associated with the menstrual cycle; the phases of the menstrual cycle mostly associated with vocal problems; the degree to which singers were vocally affected; number of singers taking an oral contraceptive pill; the number of pill takers complaining about vocal changes. Results will be presented in the presentation, but the key findings were that: a) 83% of all respondents experienced vocal problems associated with the menstrual cycle; b) singers who were pill takers experienced milder vocal changes when compared to those who were not taking an OCP.

The second part of this research involved 10 healthy young singers, students at three music colleges in the U.K., aged between 20 and 34 years old. An initial consultation and health screen with these volunteers was carried out by a gynecologist, to establish safes of intake of a placebo and an OCP. Advice on the use of other contraceptive methods during the whole experiment was given, since they were randomly allocated to receive the OCP or placebo as the first medication in the study. Vocal and blood tests were undertaken to establish a relationship between voice quality and hormonal levels. Voice assessment involved record the participants reading along and singing using an electrolaryngograph. This device is noninvasive and allows the study of larynx closed quotient (CQ) and associated fundamental period, measured using the automated Lx-based analysis technique. Levels of sexual hormones were assessed via blood samples, which followed each recording session. Blood tests measured the levels of LH, FSH, testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, androstenedione and dihydroepiandrostenedione sulphate, oestradiol and progesterone. Six voice recordings and six blood tests were carried out; three during the third month whilst on OCP; three during the third month whilst on placebo. All six recordings and blood samples were done at menstruation, during follicular phase and luteal phase. Preliminary results will be presented.

Filipa Lã
Music Department
University of Sheffield
38 Taptonville Road
Sheffield, S10 5BR
Email address:
Phone number: (0044) 7752 895 886
Fax number: (0044) 114 222 0469

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