Over the next few months after a woman pees on a stick and finds out she's expecting, everything will start to change. She will experience a ton of physical changes. Her uterus will expand, and hormones will rage.
She will find herself sporting a variety of symptoms: from morning sickness, to food aversions, glowing or oily skin, gas and bloating, and emotional feelings she simply cannot control. What is probably the most surprising is the things moms-to-be are NOT feeling.
Most women report not feel as smart as they did before. This is especially hard for people who have a tremendous memory and suddenly find themselves unable to recall simple things, let alone the more complicated.
Some women find themselves putting the cereal in the refrigerator and the milk in the pantry? I did this just last week. How about remembering that song that was playing on the radio on the car ride home? Don’t worry, many expecting women experience this phenomenon, they aren't symptoms of actually going crazy.
It's just baby brain! For years, people have attributed this forgetfulness to, “baby brain” or “pregnancy brain, and said that women just can’t help it. The challenge was presented that there is no such thing as baby brain, so scientists have been taking a deeper look.
Studies have shown that a woman’s brain does some very interesting things during pregnancy. These are things that only happen one other time in a woman’s lifetime, during puberty. It is actually a structural reorganization of the brain. Through the loss of gray matter, and the expansion of other areas of the brain, physical changes take place that help women adapt to motherhood.
Check out these WTF facts that prove the brain DOES change during pregnancy.
12 New Mothers Experience Gray Matter Reductions Lasting Up To Two Years
Did you ever think someone would tell you your brain is shrinking? That’s exactly what researchers have found. Researchers scanned the brains of women who were trying to get pregnant, then the brains of the women who did get pregnant, and then those same women again 2 years later. One of the most remarkable things they saw was a reduction in gray matter.
The brains were literally pruning out the connections that were no longer needed. Cutting them, boom, gone! It was localized to areas involved in social cognition and those dedicated to theory of mind. This is believed to affect the ability to think about what might be going on in someone else’s mind.
This would certainly be helpful to a new mother who needs to be aware of the needs of her infant. This may be the explanation for why you just can’t remember who you took to senior prom…your brain doesn’t care anymore! Brain is dedicated to focusing on that baby, and that's a good thing!
11 Progesterone And Estrogen Affect Neurons
Surging levels of hormones are another reason why pregnancy brain can happen. It is estimated that there are 15-40 times more progesterone and estrogen circulating in your brain during pregnancy than normal. During delivery, the brain is flooded with large amounts of oxytocin, which makes the uterus contract and also helps produce milk.
These increased hormones are what causes the changes that take place in the brain.
Other than the direct affect of the hormones on your neurons, there are the effects on your body. You feel uncomfortable, stressed, tired, and are unable to sleep well. A lack of sleep will make even the sharpest of people much less cognitively aware. Hormones have been known to affect the part of the brain responsible for spatial memory, which is memory related to where things are.
Can't seem to find the car keys? Hey, maybe you put them in the refrigerator when you were putting the milk back. It can happen.
10 Certain Areas In The Brain Increase In Volume
The hypothalamus, which produces dopamine and oxytocin, increases in volume. This area of the brain produces hormones that are specifically linked to attachment. This certainly seems important, especially in the first few weeks of a baby's life. Let's face it, during those weeks it is incredible to be a mom, but also entirely overwhelming.
Our brains have figured out a way to help form that attachment, even in days when we might feel like giving up.
Also affected are the thalamus, which can heighten your awareness of your baby's needs, and the prefrontal cortex, which is linked to perception of the behavior of your baby. This increase allows a mother to be more aware of the needs of her child, and more adapt to protecting her child. Surely nice to have this little function built right in, especially when you are still learning!
Researchers also found these similar changes in the brains of the father's, giving us evidence that Daddy brain is a real thing as well.
9 Changes In The Brain Can Affect Postpartum Wellness
While these changes in your brain, caused by hormonal increases are great at priming mom for taking care of her little one, they can at times, have adverse affects as well. It is believed that too much, or too little of these hormones, an imbalance if you will, can be the cause of postpartum issues.
Whether it be depression, anxiety, sadness, or the lack of an attachment feeling to your baby, hormones that you cannot control can be to blame for these less than perfect feelings.
There is so much more awareness now in regards to postpartum depression, and how real it is. Brooke Shields is often associated with being one of the first celebrity women to speak openly about her battle with postpartum depression, and the true lack of a connection that she felt with her child.
This public awareness is important, and has allowed many people to become more mindful when a new mother says they are struggling.
Left untreated, postpartum depression can have long term affects for both mother and baby.
8 Baby Brain Shows Real Benefits For Baby
Have you heard the story of the mother who wakes suddenly in the middle of the night, rushes into her child's room, and is just in time to rescue them from some type of smothering, choking or falling? I am sure we all have. While you may have once believed these were old wives tales, you have certainly experienced something that has made you believe otherwise.
My daughter refused to sleep unless swaddled tightly for the first 3 months of her life. Her father would swaddle her for bedtime, as he was far better at it than I was. On nights he would work late, I was left to try and perfect this "burrito wrap" as he called it.
One particular night, I awoke suddenly, with a gut feeling that something was wrong. I raced to her room, only to find that she had wiggled enough to unwrap herself, and part of the blanket was covering her face. While she could have been just fine, at that moment, I knew my Mommy Brain had woken me to ensure she was safe.
Benefits for baby include better protection, alertness, awareness, and bonding.
7 The Brain Will Light Up When A Mother Is Shown Pictures Of Her Baby
In a series of studies were brain imaging was performed, researchers wanted to see whether these brain changes affected the actual physical bond mothers felt with their children. While hooked up to the brain imaging equipment, mothers were shown pictures of other babies, and then pictures of their baby.
Upon seeing a picture of their own baby, parts of the brain lit up. These are the same parts that had been associated with the "fine tuning" in preparation for the arrival of baby. The same areas that had seen certain reductions in gray matter, and had increased in volume.
Just another bit of evidence to show that nature really does know best. We, as women, are hardwired to take care of our children, to identify them from others, and to protect them.
6 Scientists Can Predict A Mothers Attachment Based On Brain Scans
At the University of Barcelona, scientists have discovered some interesting things hidden in the brain scans. As mentioned earlier, certain areas have grown in volume, and others have been shown to light up in regards to looking at their own child. Scientists are now able to look at a brain scan and make a very educated guess at whether or not that woman has ever been pregnant before.
While this might not serve any real medical purpose, it is evidence that the changes have been documented, and that scientists can draw conclusive information from them.
From this study, the researchers went so far as to say, they could scan a woman's brain, and determine what type of attachment bond she might form with her child. Whether it would be incredibly strong, weak or non-existent.
One can only hope that this theory can be developed over the years to come. If so, if would be incredible to be able to predict postpartum depression. This would allow for immediate treatment, which could lessen the affects felt by both mother and child. Additionally, if we can track who is most at risk for postpartum depression, maybe we can find a way to stop it before it even occurs.
5 Most Men Find This Brain Change Attractive
Do you find that your husband is extremely willing to go and buy another gallon of milk, in order to replace the one you absentmindedly left in the cupboard? Is he calmer than ever before when helping you search for your car keys, which will inevitably turn up in some mysterious location? This is because, just like in nature, men are wired to procreate.
Having succeeded in getting you pregnant, men want a woman who can be a strong mother to their offspring.
While you may feel burnt out, brain dead and gross, your husband will generally love your baby bump, and the changes going on in your brain. His brain will likely be aware of the changes occurring , and will recognize them as changes that will help ensure his offspring is safe. This is the same reason that most men are supportive of women who breastfeed. They know you are giving their baby the very best life has to offer.
In extreme cases, there have been stories of couples splitting up, and a man trying to sue a mother for not breastfeeding. Claiming she was not nurturing his child to the best of her ability.
Thank your husband for his understanding, and know he is going through some protective changes as well.
4 Pregnant Women Are Better At Recognizing Faces
A study at McMaster University concluded that pregnant women are better at facial recognition, particularly when it comes to men. The theory holds that women are especially vigilant towards men during pregnancy. They study each face quickly and intently to assess whether or not a danger is posed to themselves and their baby. In addition, this may be important for recognizing the face of their mate, and anyone trying to impede on their relationship.
Mostly, these are all unconscious changes. You may not even be aware that you are feeling more vigilant, more protective and wary. You may find yourself carrying your purse differently (closer to your side with your arm tight on top of it), or parking closer to a store entrance if it is night time. The body can perceive situations where there could be a natural threat, and will help guide you to avoid them at all costs.
Have you ever seen someone in a store, and felt that gut instinct to stay away from them, or to leave the store? This is more than a gut instinct. It is your mommy brain kicking in, and telling you something could be less than perfect, so why not avoid the possibility of a bad situation.
3 Expecting Moms Become More Self Reliant
There is something that clicks inside your brain when you find out you are carrying another life inside of you. Poof! You are going to be a mother, you are entirely responsible for another human life! What an overwhelming, wonderful, and scary feeling. The baby will need you to be focused in order to meet ALL of it's needs. Sleep, food, comfort, happiness, safety, security.
While you may realize that you are now everything to this baby, you will start to realize you are everything to yourself. Yes, your husband can make dinner, and take out the garbage if he is helpful, maybe even throw in a load of laundry for you.
However, if he does not, you will survive just fine, and may come of this experience feeling more independent than you ever have before. So the dishes may sit, and you may pick up a fresh sub for lunch instead of cooking it. I am sure you have enough clean clothes that laundry is not essential on a daily basis. You will figure out things you never even thought possible.
It is gratifying knowing you are single handedly providing for another person. It certainly allows you to understand that YOU are enough, and will come out of this even stronger than ever before.
2 Movement Of Baby Increases Mother's Heart Rate
Does all that wiggling around in the womb affect the bond between mother and baby? A study that was conducted in California, by Dr. Glynn, says yes! Dr. Glynn discovered that even the slightest movement of the baby while inside the womb can increase the heart rate of the mother. This is said to occur even when mom-to-be cannot feel the movement.
This connection is part of a critical period where the central nervous system directs so many things that are happening inside the brain and body. These movements have been linked to the release of hormones into the brain. As we know, these hormones are responsible for helping mothers adapt to caring for their up and coming baby.
Is baby wiggling and kicking his or her way into your life? Shouting to your brain, "Make room for me!" It would certainly seem to be the case. While Mom is experiencing this new found short term memory loss, the benefits certainly outweigh the sacrifice.
1 Mom Won't Miss The Information She Lost
Countless mother's have cursed their being absentminded, and wished for the day when their short term memory would return. The good news is, it WILL return, just maybe not with the same facts it previously had. After the baby is born, and your routine has worked itself out, you will gain back this short term memory for every day tasks.
You become so incredibly focused, that you always put your keys in the same place, so that you don't have to worry about losing them again. As you start to feel less scatter-brained, you will find that your short term memory grows stronger and stronger. It can become so strong, with this new type of "mom-brain" that you are now the only person in your home who knows exactly where everything is.
Many mother's say they never gain back the things that they had originally felt lost about. It may take pulling out your yearbook in order to really remember who that senior prom date was. But as you really think about it, there are much more important things in your life now, and who would want to change that amazing connection you are now experiencing?
All in all, it has been proven that pregnancy brain is both real and necessary. Hopefully in the years to come, further studies can be done to understand more about these changes, and use them to possibility predict any issues have women with postpartum depression suffer.
Sources: Scientific American, Mama Natural, Fit Pregnancy