Pregnancy Leads to Long-Lasting Changes in the Mother’s Brain
We go from “normal” to “Mommy Brain” in 9 months, but it seems to only be a joke that most women blame for leaving their keys in the freezer. We are not crazy! Mothers across the worlds can rejoice because science has proven that we are not making it all up.
In 2002, researchers revealed that the memory issues mothers claim to have while pregnant or in early motherhood are, in fact, a reality. There have been multiple studies and research projects that show just how pregnancy and birth alter the brain, but few have involved humans instead of animals. Nature Neuroscience published a study in 2016 that involved 25 first-time mothers, comparing brain scans to those of 19 first-time fathers, 17 men without children, and 20 women who had never given birth.
They published a follow-up study in 2022 that confirmed the original findings.
What do you think was found?
That’s right, reduced grey matter. What, you didn’t guess that?
Neuroscientist Elseline Hoekzema and colleagues found that pregnancy actually reshapes the brain of mothers. This ‘reshaping’ effects the brain for at least two years postpartum.
Fellow mothers, that means that when our babies hit toddlerhood, we (technically) are still out of our right minds. That could be a deadly combination when paired with those two-year-old tantrums!
(No wonder we want wine.)
The part of the brain (medial frontal and posterior cortex) that we utilize to think, retain thoughts, feel, and exhibit intentions to others or ourselves showed significant grey matter reduction. You would think this would make us less intelligent, but alas, it seems that motherhood makes us that much more in tune to life around us. Yes, we may forget small things on a regular basis throughout pregnancy and early-motherhood, but it seems that this shift matures our brains.
The study revealed that mothers with the highest loss (or shrinkage) of grey matter have the highest quality of mother-to-infant attachment after birth.
This explains why my natural Type-A personality has become a bit more lax over the 8 years I had 5 babies! My brain became more mature and aware of the needs of my children, pushing aside the things I once thought were so important.
Want to read more about the studies?
Click Here for the 2016 study.
Click Here for the 2022 study.