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Pregnancy Changes The Brain For As Long As Two Years

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A woman goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, both physically and emotionally. And these changes include the woman’s brain as well. It’s intriguing to know that pregnancy has an effect not just on the body, but the brain too. Are you interested to know how? Continue reading the article to find out.

The Grey Matter In A Woman’s Brain

Studies have shown that the grey matter seen in specific areas of the brain is reduced during pregnancy. This change, in turn, helps in developing the bond between the mother and the baby. It also helps her be ready for the responsibilities of motherhood.

The study focused on 25 women who were first-time mothers. Their scan results were studied. It was found that the structural brain changes stayed for at least 2 years after childbirth. European researchers say that these brain changes are similar to those seen during adolescent years.

We often hear women complain about how they have become more forgetful and emotional during their pregnancy. The culprit behind these changes is usually considered to be pregnancy or baby brain – and rightly so.

The Surge In Hormones

The one thing we all know about being pregnant is the sudden rush of hormones through our body. Researchers say that these hormones play a major role in the extreme physical and psychological changes that occur in our body during that time.

The research was done by researchers at the Leiden University and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona by studying the brain scans of 25 participants. Scans of these women before getting pregnant, soon after giving birth, and 2 years later were evaluated to understand the changes in the brain. Their results were then compared to 19 men who were first-time dads, 17 men who never had children and 20 women who had never gone through childbirth.

The level of estrogen hormones peaks immensely during the pregnancy period. It is said that these levels of hormones are greater during those 9 months than what women experience during their whole lives. But despite this fact, there is very little research done on how the human brain is affected by pregnancy. The computers were able to identify pregnant women just by examining their brain images.

Mother-Baby Bonding

Mothers were shown images of their babies and other babies in one of the tasks to monitor their brain activity. It was found that when they were shown images of their own babies, the areas of the brain where the grey matter lessened became active. However, when they were shown images of other babies, the same area did not light up.

The grey matter in the brain of first-time mothers was significantly less. The changes due to grey matter took place in parts of the brain which dealt with social interactions that attribute to feelings and thoughts. The researchers believe that these changes would serve as an advantage to new mothers. It would help them in recognizing the child’s needs, develop more attachment to their baby, and be aware of social threats.

According to the study, all pregnant women were affected in the same way regardless of how they conceived. It was also found that the grey matter showed no changes when the brains of first-time dads were examined before and after their partner became pregnant.

Elseline Hoekzema, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Leiden University says that the reductions in volume which were observed in pregnant women call for further maturation in the area of grey matter in the brain.

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We can only hope that more studies will be done in this regard to find out new facts about a woman’s brain during pregnancy.


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