Parenthood. One of the biggest changes in life one can go through.
It’s no longer just yourself. You now have to protect and care for an innocent and defenseless little human being.
Dealing with this change is tough enough, but have you wondered what biochemical reactions happen in the brain to the Mother who had to conceive this baby?
We all know giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, but we often don’t talk about the effects it has on the brain.
So today, we’re going to go over what science has found to Mother’s brain once she becomes pregnant.
What happens to the brain after pregnancy
A groundbreaking study recently found that being pregnant creates long-lasting effects in a mother’s brain, with MRI scans showing changes in grey matter volume that may actually help Moms look after their new babies.
What are these changes?
According to the researchers, gray matter concentrates in regions associated with social cognition and theory of mind – a region of the brain that’s activated when women looked at photos of their infants.
Here’s the definition of ‘theory of mind’:
“The ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own.”
Also, activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. These changes were still present two years after birth.
We all know that during pregnancy, there’s an enormous increase in hormones such as progestorone and estrogen to prepare a women’s body to carry a child.
We produce similar amounts of these hormones during puberty, which is known to cause dramatic and organizational changes in the brain. Boys and girls lose gray matter in the brain as it is pruned to be more efficient.
While it is not entirely clear why women’s gray matter concentrates during pregnancy, the lead researcher of the study, Heokzema, thinks it may be because their brains are becoming better prepared to adapt to motherhood and respond to their babies.
Mel Rutheford, an evolutionary psychologist, summarizes it best:
“As a parent, you’re now going to be solving slightly different adaptive problems, slightly different cognitive problems than you did before you had children…You have different priorities, you have different tasks you’re going to be doing, and so your brain changes.”
But ask any Mother:
One of the biggest changes that occur after giving birth are intimate ones – the emotional changes. The feelings of empathy and love that’s so deep it can’t be put into words. But, as it turns out, they are also largely neurological.
The researchers say that gray matter becomes more concentrated and activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety and social interaction, as well as a flood of hormones resulting from pregnancy, help attract a new mother to her baby.
In other words, the incredibly strong maternal feelings of love, fierce protectiveness and constant worry begin with neurological changes in the brain.