Pregnancy changes parts of a woman’s brain, a new study says, ABC reports.
When researchers compared brain scans of women before and after pregnancy, they spotted some differences in 11 locations. They also found hints that the alterations help women prepare for motherhood. For example, they might help a mother understand the needs of her infant, Elseline Hoekzema, a study author, explained via email.
Hoekzema is a neuroscientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who began working on the study while at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.
The study results were consistent: A computer program could tell which women had gotten pregnant just by looking at results of the MRI scans. And the changes, first documented an average of 10 weeks after giving birth, were mostly still present two years after childbirth.
Further work showed they’re a motherhood thing: No brain changes were seen in first-time fathers.
Some study results hint that such upgrades may prepare a woman for motherhood. One analysis linked brain changes to how strongly a woman felt emotionally attached to her infant. And when women viewed pictures of their babies, several brain regions that reacted the most were ones that showed pregnancy-related change.