Pregnancy can produce a lot of changes in a woman’s life. Of course, there are the obvious changes, she is now a mother and her life as she had always known it first-time be forever altered. She is now responsible for another living person. The mother also has to deal with social, economic , career, and many other changes.
Additionally, there are a wide variety of physical changes, the things that happen to her body over the period of nine months, many of which remain even after she has given birth. A new study has shown, however, that these are not all of the changes that occur in women when they are with child. In fact, there is one change that alters the very fabric of who she is, a change to her brain.
Nature’s Helping Hand in Preparing A Women for Motherhood
During a recent study, jointly undertaken by researchers in both Spain and the Netherlands, it was discovered that women suffer fundamental changes to their physical brain structures after the implantation of a fertilized egg. These brain changes are in areas that have a direct effect on who she is, her very personality.
They also affect how she views the world, and reacts to a wide variety of situations. The brain changes occur in the areas of the brain that are related to social processes and interpersonal relationships. The study used an MRI system to scan the brains of the test subjects before they become pregnant, during pregnancy, and for a period after the baby arrived.
What was found was astonishing. There was a drop in gray matter in particular areas of the brain, also known as the theory of mind network. These are areas that are connected to how one perceives emotions, provides the needs of others, and embody feelings of protectiveness and nurturing.
Consequently, there were no brain changes of first-time fathers that correlate with the findings in women. These alterations are intended to help turn a woman into a mother. The good news is that the researchers didn’t record any long-term effects in the areas of cognition or memory.
“The changes only affect areas of the brain that are involved in the ability to manage the challenges of motherhood,” stated the co-author of the study.
Erika Barba-Muller, who works at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, one of the two institutions involved in the joint effort, lead the study.
Definitive Proof From Detailed Study
The study was conducted on 25 women from Spain who were first-time mothers. While these changes have been theorized and even studied before, researchers have always thought that the alterations occurred after childbirth, as part of the bonding experience. So what’s really going on here?
The paper revealed that there are 11 key areas of the brain that show a reduction in synaptic activity and gray matter during and after pregnancy. This isn’t an uncommon thing; our bodies make such brain changes at several key points in our lives such as puberty, menopause, or late stage life.
Bruce McEwen, who studies hormonal effects on the brain at Rockefeller University in New York stated:
“The idea of synapses being pruned in pregnancy makes a lot of sense. The brain is being reshaped all the time, and sex hormones are part of the whole orchestra of processes that change the brain structurally.”
Mother Nature is on Your Side
In summary, even if you were not born with that natural maternal instinct, Mother Nature isn’t going to leave you helpless. These brain changes are designed to help you develop it and to be a good mother, even if you have never parented anything more complex than a potted plant. In short, relax, enjoy your pregnancy, and know that you can do this, the very nature of being a woman is going to help you get it right.
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