Time for mom

How does motherhood change a woman's brain?

How does motherhood change a woman's brain?

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Artist Sarah Walker once said that motherhood is like discovering new rooms in a house where you have long lived.

Writing simpler and without imagination - motherhood changes a lot. Nothing looks the same as before the baby is born. This is an undeniable fact. Each of us experiences it.

How does it happend? What really happens when we become mothers?

Recent research proves that during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth, there are permanent changes in the brain of a woman. The researchers say that the combination of a few facts discovered will help us understand what really motivates mothers from the point of view of biology to undertake the great trouble of raising children. And why sometimes you fail to maintain internal balance and there is depression, often leading to family tragedies.

After the baby is born, the woman's brain grows


Scientists have found that after the birth of a child, the woman's brain grows. Unfortunately, we do not know why this is happening - it is believed that the reason may be an increase in the production of estrogens, prolactin and oxytocin.

In 2010, a study was conducted at Yale University, during which the brain was scanned before and after delivery. It turned out that for each of the women the brain increased. How?

A small but noticeable increase in gray matter was observed in the hypothalamus, parietal lobe and prefrontal cortex. These areas are responsible for emotions, feelings, senses and pleasure of rewards.

Scientists have also noticed another phenomenon. Women who were most enthusiastic about the birth of their child experienced changes in the brain to a greater extent than those whose reaction was less spectacular.

In addition, they made another conclusion - an increase in the activity of the brain responsible for "motivation" can lead to an improvement in childcare skills, which in turn affects the infant - stimulates them to develop. Otherwise - it is the biochemical changes in the brain that decide that we have the desire and strength to look after the child.

Fall in love with a child

Scientists examined and compared the appearance of the brain and the activation of spheres in people in love (being in the first phase of love - infatuation) and in young mothers. It turned out that in both cases the brains look almost the same. And interestingly, the biggest changes in the brain occur in a woman after the birth of her first child.

Similar changes is also seen in men. However, under the condition that they are actively involved in the care of the baby from the very beginning.

Is motherhood pleasant?

Scientists go a step further and notice that maternal feelings and behavior can be supported by the system responsible for experiencing pleasure. It produces dopamine, a chemical messenger that interacts with some brain cells that are responsible for your well-being.

The brain receives a signal of well-being, and we, as individuals striving for happiness, try to repeat the given behavior that gave such an effect. A signal of a well-fulfilled duty can be a smile of an infant who moves the area responsible for motivation.

After delivery, the woman's brain works differently. Activity is increasing in regions that they control empathy, anxiety and social interaction. These changes in the brain, according to researchers, are also directly related to the increased risk of developing depression and other compulsive behavior (like constantly washing hands and checking if the baby is breathing) that appear in young mothers one in six women.

Scientists directly say that a few months after giving birth, mothers show a pattern of thinking and behavior close to obsessive-compulsive activity.

Fear you never felt

It is said that you never felt real fear before you became a mother. In a sense, this is a legitimate claim, because after delivery the area in the brain called the almond body is stimulated. This region has high levels of receptors for hormones such as oxytocin. The higher the level of this hormone, the mother is more involved in childcare.

The level of oxytocin increases when the mother looks at her child, hugs them, breastfeed, as well as the sound of his crying, or only when she smells the child - e.g. when sniffing clothes. Researchers have even investigated that breastfeeding mothers (large amounts of oxytocin are released during feeding) are more sensitive to baby crying than those who feed on the formula. This fact can be a good excuse and at the same time an argument for daddies, who sometimes do not hear the baby's crying at night and as if they never sleep again. :)

Be scared like a mother

Interestingly enough, neurons accumulated in the almond body are propelling fear, anxiety and aggression. In a woman's brain, when everything goes physiologically, it is in these areas after childbirth that neuron activity increases. This increase is observed several weeks or even months after the birth of the child.