Of all the changes we feel during pregnancy and as new mothers, it is helpful to realize our brains (the control centre of our nervous systems) change. Big Time.
We need to learn a lot of new behaviors in order to ensure the survival of our child(ren). While some of these new behaviours are learned, many we become hard wired for. Literally.
There are various studies that attempt to look at how this occurs and research is currently underway to continue to find more answers. Here is a summary of some research to date.
This recent study performed brain scans on first-time mothers before and after pregnancy.
The researchers found that the new mothers experienced gray matter reductions that lasted for at least two years after birth.
It is not exactly clear what this means, but researches hypothesize that the loss of gray matter could represent a fine-tuning. Women’s brains are becoming more specialized in ways that will help them adapt to motherhood and respond to the needs of their babies.
This reduction occurred in parts of the brain involved in helping us think about what is going on in someone else’s mind. Fine tuning our ability to understand the thoughts, emotions, desires and motivations of our babies is critical to their success.
Interestingly enough, the researchers didn’t see shrinking of grey matter in father’s brains.
It was also noted that during adolescence boys and girls similarly lose gray matter as the brain connections they don’t need are pruned, and their brains are sculpted into their adult form.