The researchers have found out for the first time that pregnancy can actually alter a mother’s brain to adapt to the new changes in her life for at least two years.
The researchers measured the changes in the women’s brains in regions which were responsible for social cognition and the ability to understand thoughts and intentions of other people. The findings of the study suggests that during the pregnancy, a woman’s brain makes certain alterations to intensify the maternal bonding with the new-born child.
In order to reach the findings, the researchers in Spain studied the brains of around 25 first-time mothers, before and after their pregnancy. The women were again observed after two years of having given birth. The researchers then compared the images of these mothers’ brain scans to that of at least 19 first-time fathers. They also studied and compared the brain scans of 17 mean and 20 women who had not given birth.
The researchers found out there were distinct pattern of structural changes in the brain of new mothers, the changes were so significant that the researchers could easily identify the brain scan images of new mothers in comparison with the rest of the scans taken.
The researchers also noted that these changes remained for at least a period of two years except for a partial return to its previous state in the hippocampus, which is a portion of the brain associated with memory.
“The gray matter volume changes of pregnancy significantly predicted the quality of mother-to-infant attachment and the absence of hostility toward their newborns in the postpartum period,” the authors wrote in a study.
According to the study findings, the brain images revealed “the strongest neural activity in response to the women’s babies corresponded to regions that lost gray matter volume across pregnancy.”
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on Monday.