The so-called mother's instinct may have a scientific basis after all. Study suggests that a portion of a woman's brain architecture changes during her first pregnancy that can last up to two years.
Similar studies have explained the different ways pregnancy changes a mother's brain just like how mothers may have stored her son's cells inside her brain
But this new study on rewiring mothers' brain during her first pregnancy however suggests a different function. This brain change seems like a warning or defense system is being developed in a woman's biology. The gray matter in the brain shrinks in those areas that may cause them to respond well to their infant's needs or detect threats in the surroundings.
Pregnancy is like a whirlwind of physiological and physical changes in a woman's body with hormones flying out the window, so to speak. Sustaining and channeling all the vital human necessities to create another human being as healthy as possible is something that takes huge amount of a mother's own life-sustaining resources like blood, nutrients and hormones among other things. In fact, a previous study also links the lack of vitamin D in mothers during their pregnancy may put infant to a bigger risk of developing autism
Elseline Hoekzema, lead author of the study and a neuroscientist at Leiden University the Netherlands wants to make it clear that although there is a grey matter loss, it does not suggest losing brain or losing vital functionality, sometimes it suggests otherwise.
“Gray matter volume loss can also represent a beneficial process of maturation or specialization," she explained.
Hoekzema and her colleagues conducted the study in affiliation with the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. They used MRI to scan brains of 25 women who had never had children. They also did the scan before they became pregnant and again a little over a month after they gave birth. The team also scanned 19 first-time fathers at the same scanning intervals, 17 men without children, and 20 women without children who did not become pregnant during the study. All in all, the study gathered 4 groups.
Using computer-generated analyses, the results showed highly consistent volume losses of gray matter in mothers. The part of their brain that changes have functions that are linked to the nature of motherhood like reading social queues - the desires and intentions of others. Other parts are linked to the common mental disruptions claimed to occur after pregnancy like memory deficits.
In a real-time MRI reading, mothers were shown with their infants' images and the result showed that those areas of the brain with gray matter loss were most active.
The pregnant women in the said study had their brain scanned again after two years and the result showed that the only area that had redeveloped was the hippocampus.
“It opens the door to the possibility that it might cause changes in parenting that might have implications in decision-making and behavior later in life,” said Mel Rutherford, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
This study also shows us that the physical and physiological changes are not due to the psychological burden and physical stress caused by pregnancy.
The study is published in journal Nature Neuroscience
See: Woman Gave Birth to “Miracle Baby” With Frozen Ovary She Had As a Child