How Pregnancy Changes Your Brain

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Kate B. Harding

 

About four out of five women experience some form or another of impaired brain function during their pregnancy, according to a study. That might take the form of memory loss, a feeling of fuzziness, or even simply stress, it’s now believed that the condition sometimes referred to by women as “pregnancy brain” may actually be an important part of preparing a woman to be a mom.

The dramatic hormonal changes that take place throughout pregnancy have been believed, for quite a long time, to have an impact on a woman’s brain, and in particularly preparing her for motherhood. That said, there’s been little study on the area.

More data on hormone impact during teenage years and menopause

We do know – from a number of different studies – that the hormone changes that take place in teens and then again during menopause do affect the way a woman’s brain functions. Fewer studies, however, have been done in terms of pregnancy.

In studies involving mice, the hormone surge that occurs during pregnancy has show to increase things like spatial skills as well as multitasking. It increases boldness, and decreases anxiety. These effects tend to stick after pregnancy, even when the babies are born and even grown.

But how does it affect people?

That’s what researchers are trying to find out. They’re looking at the possibility that a woman’s brain being bombarded with hormonal changes during pregnancy may be creating certain mental shifts. Those periods of memory loss or cognitive difficulties can be part of gaining new capacities for caring for your baby.

More research is needed

Of course, these are all theories, at this point. Researchers now move on to try to study the impact that prenatal hormones can have on a number of different cognitive abilities, as well as looking at how past pregnancies can affect the brain as a woman ages. There is even some thought that sleep deprivation caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy may be a part of preparing a mom for the sleep deprivation that comes from having a newborn.

So, what do you think? Does pregnancy help prepare our brains to become mothers?

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