Pregnancy Resculpts Women’s Brains for At Least Two Years

Pregnancy Resculpts Women’s Brains for At Least Two Years

Ava Appel

It is known that pregnancy drastically affects women’s bodies, but a new study has found that it can temporarily resculpt a woman’s brain. This effect tends to be seen in first-time pregnancies and causes changes in brain areas involved in social cognition. The study showed that, “gray matter shrinks in areas involved in processing and responding to social signals.” The study’s lead author wanted it to be known that pregnancy won’t make you lose your brain, and that gray matter loss could be a sign of maturation or specialization. The changes in a woman’s brain after birth may also be the body’s way of rewiring itself to more efficiently allow them to respond to their infant’s needs, as well as protect their infant from threatening people in their environment. 

Pregnancy is a process that deeply affects women’s hormones and physiological capabilities; some changes are normal such as hormone level and blood volume increase, whereas others can be more serious such as forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. Other species of animals have been studied during and after pregnancy as well, and it was found in rodent mothers that they become better at foraging for food after giving birth. Giving birth is not only a huge physical task, but a mental and emotional strain too. It takes a large amount of energy and strength out of a person and most of the time women are not educated on the effects that labor and giving birth will have on them. 

It is crucial to women’s physical and mental health to continue to learn about what their bodies go through to have a child. An evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada noted, “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.” This means that the post-pregnancy brain could cause women to parent differently than they may have originally planned. Researchers also plan to study adoptive parents and mothers who gave up their babies, to explore the possibility that these changes in the brain are solely based on the physical act of pregnancy, not just being a parent.