The Science behind “Mom ?Brain”

“Mom Brain”

Yes, it’s a real thang.

Yes Mama, your brain is changing, too.

Yes, it’s in your head, but it’s not “just in your head…”

Ladies, you know what I mean ?

Pregnancy and postpartum periods are hallmarked by many important hormonal changes, for obvious reasons. The only other time in a woman’s life that closely compares is puberty, where notable developmental changes occur in the brain. So, when we consider that comparison, it’s not that surprising that a surge of sex hormones again during pregnancy and postpartum also spark changes in the mother’s brain, too. This begins during pregnancy and continues for at least the first TWO years postpartum…and likely it lasts even longer than that, but more research is needed.

So how do we know this? Functional MRI studies were taken of expectant mother’s brains during pregnancy, and then again at two years PP, confirming a reduction (aka neural pruning) in grey matter (GM) when compared to the control group of women who had never been pregnant. These changes were so noticeable upon imaging that researchers could predict with 84.4% accuracy who had undergone pregnancy based on their grey matter changes alone ?

These pruned areas also responded with the strongest neural activity when mothers were shown a picture of their own baby vs a baby that was not biologically hers.

Why does this happen?! ?

The current hypothesis for these changes: to enhance mother-to-baby attachment via the mother’s ability to recognize the physical and emotional needs of her child(ren) more effectively.

Another way this has been interpreted: mothers are learning to refocus their attention to what is most important in caring for their offspring and forgetting things that do not meet this criteria.

We have only just begun to scratch the surface with regards to these important findings. More research is needed, and other important research questions that are being discussed with respect to these findings also bring into question the possibility of could GM pruning volume be a prediction tool for postpartum depression and anxiety, as well.

Mamas, what do you think about these findings?

Have you felt these “mom brain” changes?