Pregnancy changes a woman’s brain for at least two years
It has been proven that pregnancy reduces the amount of grey matter in a pregnant woman’s brain for at least two years. These changes that occur in specific parts of the brain , helps the woman bond with her baby and prepares her for the demands of motherhood. The European researchers studied brain scan images of 25 new mothers
The study was conducted by researchers from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Leiden University.They looked at brain scans of 25 women before they got pregnant, soon after they delivered and two years after their deliveries. The images were compared with the brain images of 20 women that have never given birth, that of 19 first time fathers and 17 men that do not have any children
The result showed that there was significant reduction in the volume of grey matter in the brain of the 25 first time mothers. The grey matter changes occurred in t areas of the brain involved with social interactions, the parts where we attribute thoughts and feelings to other people known as the “theory of mind tasks”. The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.
The researchers believed that the brain changes will help the new mother bond with her child, recognise the needs and possible social threats to the baby.
More on mother-baby bond
In one of the tasks the new mothers were subjected to, they were connected to brain monitors and showed pictures of their babies and other babies, when they were showed their babies, the part of the brain that was active and lit up were similar to the parts where significant grey matter reduction was observed during pregnancy, however, when pictures of other babies were shown to each mother there were no significant changes in brain activity.
The researchers also submitted that drastic hormonal, physiological and physical changes occur in pregnancy, with an extreme surge of the sex hormone, estrogen, during the nine months of pregnqncy ,estrogen levels in the blood peak at a level far greater than the amount seen over a woman’s entire life time.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy was said to be similar to the pattern seen in adolescence.
They found no significant change in the white matter of the studied group.
The study also revealed that the pattern of brain changes in the 25 first time mothers were the same regardless of whether they got pregnant naturally or through Invitro Fertilisation (IVF).
There were no changes in the grey matters of the first time fathers before and after their partners gave birth.
More research is needed on the effects of pregnancy on the human brain, a lot is definitely happening beyond our eyes.