Does pregnancy change the size of my brain? Yes it does. Let’s find out what exactly happens during pregnancy to our brain and why this happens.
Ever wondered why you had that instant connection with your baby as soon as he or she was born?
The truth is a mother’s brain, in fact, shrinks.
This is one of the many pregnancy changes that will happen. And, you will have to survive with this change in gray matter for at least two years, if not for life. Let’s discover some interesting pregnancy facts to look forward to when blessed with a little baby.
- Pregnancy changes
- Pregnancy Resource Recommendations
- What science says about what happens to our brains during pregnancy
- A study designed to evaluate brain size during pregnancy changes
- Reduced gray matter volume was proven after pregnancy
- Mother-Baby Attachment
- The Father’s brain
- Lasting brain alteration following pregnancy changes
- Brain-related pregnancy changes summarized in my opinion
- A final word on what happens during pregnancy
- grab the ultimate pregnancy superfoods & nutrition guide
Although we will experience many pregnancy changes to our bodies and brain, we need not worry. As this is actually good news. If not great news, rather than bad. Read on to discover the truth about these amazing pregnancy changes our bodies undergo to help us be the best moms. And what exactly happens during pregnancy giving us mom brain.
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Pregnancy Resource Recommendations
Click here to discover some of my favorite pregnancy resources to help you enjoy pregnancy and raise a happy and healthy baby. At the end of the post, But THIS will always be my first and best recommendation as it changed my own and my baby’s life for good.
What science says about what happens to our brains during pregnancy
I came across a recent and impressive publication by Elseline Hoekzema and colleagues and instantly knew that mothers would be fascinated by what they found.
Let’s start off with why and how they investigated these pregnancy changes and then share their interesting results. Read on to also find out how the brain of your baby’s father is affected during pregnancy.
And, what this brain altering data actually means to you and me.
A study designed to evaluate brain size during pregnancy changes
Over 5 years, data were collected from first-time pregnant women and their male partners. They compared this to data from non-pregnant women and men without children.
Since there is limited information on actual brain changes during pregnancy, the researchers from this Barcelona clinic performed various brain scans and cognitive tests.
These were done before and after pregnancy as well as two years after childbirth. Results were used to shed light on this topic of pregnancy changes.
Reduced gray matter volume was proven after pregnancy
Their results show that pregnancy indeed leads to a reduction in gray matter volume. And, therefore a reduction in the overall size of a mother’s brain.
The changes were mostly seen in the cerebral cortex, which is associated with supporting social skills or helping mother’s respond well to their babies.
The extent of brain volume change is directly linked to how attached the mother was to her baby.
The change is therefore seen as being part of the adjustment process to becoming a mother. And part of the magic of what happens to our bodies and brains during pregnancy.
As confirmation of this surprising finding, the authors showed that by looking at the brain changes only, they were able to say without any other information whether a woman was pregnant or not.
Based on the brain scans and cognitive tests performed, the authors concluded that your emotional connection with your baby will be determined by the extent of brain volume change.
Has someone ever commented before on how incredible it is that you can distinguish your baby’s cry from any other baby?
Or, how you know your baby’s needs by simply hearing the sounds he or she makes?
This is exactly what the volume changes in your brain allow for during pregnancy. This brain modification is believed to enhance a new mother’s face and emotion recognition.
Remarkably, it made no difference whether mothers conceived naturally or via assisted fertility treatment. The gray matter volume pregnancy changes were alike in both.
Also, it made no difference whether they expected a boy or a girl, or had a single or twin pregnancy. Therefore no matter how you conceive or the gender or number of your babies, you would be blessed with this pregnancy-related brain alteration.
Helping you to better connect with your baby.
Improved social networking skills
The authors also speculate that your brain further develops the neural network responsible for social interaction.
Maybe that’s exactly why there are so many mommy bloggers out there. We all have enhanced social networking skills because of our pregnancies!
I remember when we had our first baby, my husband commented on how amazing it was how she would immediately be calm when in my arms. Even after being terribly difficult seconds ago without me.
This is just one of the examples and privileges of having your brain altered by pregnancy in order to care for your baby.
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The Father’s brain
So bless this group of experts for posing one of the more interesting scientific questions out there
And the simple answer is that it doesn’t. Of course not …
They showed absolutely no changes in the gray matter volume of men following the pregnancy of their partners.
This further proves that the changes in gray matter volume in females are due to biology and not simply the experience of parenthood.
In other words: blame those hormones! There were of course also no brain volume changes for the non-pregnant females over the course of the study.
Sometimes, our partners need a little bit of motivation and inspiration to be the best dads they can be.
I can highly recommend you invest in resources like these to ensure your baby has the best dad ever!
Are you having an uncomfortable pregnancy?
When one of these sound familiar
Imagine being super comfortable sleeping, sitting and even nursing! Heaven right? Well, it’s easier than you think. And when you seriously need your deserved rest during pregnancy
You will be so glad you did. I know, because this was not only one of my first pregnancy investments but also one of the greatest ones!
Lasting brain alteration following pregnancy changes
Even two years after giving birth, it was shown that the gray matter volume changes were still obvious in most of the cortical regions.
The fractional recovery of hippocampal gray matter after two years could explain why we feel partial relief from that scatterbrained feeling experienced mostly during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.
Memory shortfall in pregnant mothers has previously been described scientifically. However, it was not confirmed by the researchers in this study.
While it was tested, the results were not significantly different from non-pregnant women.
Although we as mothers do not need to be reminded of the marshmallow-head-syndrome we all suffer during pregnancy. We can now at least keep our chins up knowing that it is bound to improve in time.
Brain-related pregnancy changes summarized in my opinion
We all wonder what happens during pregnancy to our bodies and brains. This article validates our maternal feelings by associating them with structural and hormonal brain changes.
It allows me to hugely appreciate
that pregnancy does not just simply conclude with the gift of a newborn baby, but also provides us with all the essential emotional attributes that afford us the opportunity to become great mothers.
Pregnancy physically changes our brains so that we can recognize, truly connect and understand our own babies. It empowers us to be the best mothers we can be.
So embrace the changes that pregnancy imposes on your mind and body. Knowing that it is your instinctive contribution to a new little life.
I love to hear from you so leave a comment and share your best pregnancy-brain incident.
Pregnancy might shrink your brain but it simply means that you will love your baby the most!
Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Hoekzema et al., Nature Neuroscience 20, 287-296 (2017).
And to keep your baby safe at all times
Pregnancy Literature Recommendations
With so many books and resources available out there, we often do not know the good ones from the mediocre ones. You can find all the best pregnancy resources here.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, my best friend gave me this book when I was pregnant. And it changed my life! It empowered me to raise a happy baby and love my time as a new mommy. I know it will help you too!
A final word on what happens during pregnancy
When you find yourself in a situation where
- you are not sure what to do
- and there is no person you trust
- or resource you believe
Trust your own instincts
Yes, it is true, as a mom, we need to learn to trust our so-called sixth sense
Research has proven
Research has proven cognitive function changes during pregnancy and it helps
* to connect moms with their babies
* strengthening a mom’s ability to intuitively know what their baby needs
In other words, trust your gut feeling!
Interested to learn more about the power of your intuition
- and let me know your best pregnancy resource
- who do you trust most to give you good parenting advice? Your mom?
I read the same study about the brain changes during and after pregnancy. Grey matter decreases but nowhere does it say your brain volume decreases.
Social cues with other people actually decrease according to this study .
So it seems like a few misinterpretations in this article.
Maybe i need a nap.
I just read about this study recently. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies know exactly how to prepare us for motherhood?
I recently wrote a post about 5 positive ways pregnancy changes a womans body (read it here: https://mamarissa.com/5-ways-pregnancy-changes-your-body-for-the-better/). It’s so important for expectant mothers to hear the amazing things their bodies are doing and not just the frustrating things.
Hi Marissa, you’re so right, we don’t always focus enough on the amazing ways our bodies adapt to pregnancy. It’s such a special time and when we understand all the clever pregnancy changes, we can enjoy it even more. Love your post!
Nice post, who would have thought? Looking forward to your next article!