Childbirth changes mom’s brains but does not alter cognitive functions.

Heather Suhr
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I’m not a mother, so I cannot imagine what’s it like to give birth to a child.  However, I can guess that having a baby brings about a host of changes for a new mom! It is exciting and life changing. It’s amazing to see mothers giving their love and tender care to a newborn child.

The changes in a mom’s life may be physical, mental, and emotional. What’s intriguing is that a study suggests that a mother’s brain actually changes as well!

Women experience change of gray matter in certain regions of the brain.

A study, conducted in 2010 in Behavior Neuroscience, suggests that the gray matter growth in a certain part of women’s brain regions occurs during the first few months of motherhood. (1)

The additional volume of gray matter was concentrated in the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, and the midbrain areas that are associated with maternal care. Mothers who were openly devoted to their newborns showed the greatest gray matter growth, which indicates neurological adjustment is the baby’s way of prepping women to be good mothers. (1)

This study was conducted on 19 healthy mothers whose average age was 33 years old. Ten out of the 19 mothers had male newborns, and eight of the mothers had previous children. On the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), mothers scored between 0 and 13, which indicates minimal to moderate levels of depressive symptoms at both 2-4 weeks and 3-4 months postpartum. (1)

With many variations in maternal brain plasticity, coming to an understanding of these may help doctors treat post-partum depression more effectively. (2)

Pregnancy does not affect a mother’s cognitive functions.

An Australian study, “Path Through Life,” randomly selected 7,500 women and performed memory speed tests three times over the eight years before, during, and after pregnancy. Researchers found no cognitive gaps across the total 20-year time span of the study. (3)

Lead researcher, Helen Christensen, stated, “We didn’t find any difference between the women before and after pregnancy, or before and after motherhood, and there were no differences between the non-mothers and the mothers, and the pregnant women.” (3)

Carrying a baby had no permanent effects on a woman’s mental functions. And Christensen further states, “Our results challenge the view that mothers are anything other than intellectual peers of their contemporaries.” (3)

It is possible that a mom’s brain might feel somewhat scrambled with hormones factoring in, but it’s not because of the babies taking a negative toll on the brain. After all, having a child is a huge responsibility!

Sources for this article include:

(1) www.apa.org
(2) www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com
(3) news.discovery.com

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/22suSL

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