Motherhood Really Is Mind-Blowing – The Science Will Amaze You

Perhaps no other experience in life has more impact on a woman than being a mother.

It gives us an incredible sense of purpose, helps us to switch our youthful focus from ourselves to the needs of others, and teaches us the true meaning of unconditional love.

We all know there are so many emotional and physical changes that a woman undergoes once she becomes a mother, but most women aren’t aware of these shocking facts.

It is truly mind-blowing to be able to grow a little human being inside of us.  We are typically familiar with the emotional roller-coaster of the postpartum period, and the obvious changes to our bodies following childbirth.

But do you know what really happens to our brains during pregnancy and childbirth?  The science – and how it affects our parenting – is fascinating.

Romper.com reported:

Researchers have found that pregnancy and childbirth actually changes your brain physically, too. Different parts of your brain produce and release a cocktail of hormones, which in turn causes your body to do its thing during labor and birth — including physical changes, like cervical changes, labor contractions, pain relief, and lactation. In response, these physical processes cause even more hormones to be released, and so on and so forth, like an intricate dance, proving once again just how amazing birth is.

In a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers scanned the brains of first-time moms before they got pregnant, soon after birth, and during the postpartum period. They found that moms actually lost grey matter in their brains at some point during pregnancy.

Before we begin to panic that we are actually losing grey matter in our brains when we become moms (is that why we are so forgetful?!), the science shows it is a vital part of bonding with our newborns.

Scientific American reported:

A research team at Autonomous University of Barcelona, led by neuroscientist Elseline Hoekzema of Leiden University, performed brain scans on first-time mothers before and after pregnancy and found significant gray matter changes in brain regions associated with social cognition and theory of mind—the same regions that were activated when women looked at photos of their infants.

These changes, which were still present two years after birth, predicted women’s scores on a test of maternal attachment, and were so clear that a computer algorithm could use them to identify which women had been pregnant.  This loss, however, is not necessarily a bad thing (according to Hoekzema, “the localization was quite remarkable”).  Gray matter loss was not seen in new fathers or nonparents.

This decrease in grey matter is thought to help new moms focus primarily on the needs of our new little ones, and less on other things of less importance (a clean house, perhaps).  This physical change in our brains can last for two years postpartum, helping that focus continue during the most vital period of our child’s development.

But take heart – studies show that other parts of our brains actually get larger during pregnancy and childbirth.

Romper.com continued:

As reported by Live Science, researchers from Yale University looked at images of moms’ brains before and after childbirth, and found increases in the size of specific areas of the brain, including the amygdala and hypothalamus, which, according to the study published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, could play a unique role in helping you develop parenting skills. Who knew?

Researchers stress, however, that while the fascinating changes that occur within a mother’s brain help us to bond with and nurture our newborns, it does not mean that dads – or even non-biological parents – won’t properly bond with their babies.

Other studies have found that dads and other caregivers receive a boost of oxytocin – the same hormones that increase in women giving birth – in their brains when caring for their children.

This seems yet another incredible way that God creates our bodies and minds to work together to nurture the vulnerable little ones who enter our lives – and proves that being a parent is a life-changing experience for anyone.

Were you aware of the amazing changes going on in your brain during and after pregnancy?  Leave us your thoughts on this fascinating process!

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