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What Happens To A Woman’s Brain When She Becomes A Mother?

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Researchers observed growth in hypothalamus and substantia nigra, parts of the brain responsible for emotion and reward behavior. Baby's cry triggers oxytocin, which is a happy hormone. Maternal feelings such as protectiveness and overwhelming love are aggravated. There is also proof that there is a change in perception of smell and sound in moms to help communicate with their babies.

Giving birth to a newborn and experiencing motherhood is something only a woman can feel. Research has shown that there is an increase in the size of the mid brain of a woman after child birth. Though brain size, especially the gray matter volume does not increase easily in a short period.

However, the adult gray matter volume changes rapidly when the brain experiences exceptional learning, injury, infection, or a major environmental change, as reported in Behavioral Neuroscience in October of 2010. The changes seem to begin, the moment the baby is born.

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Physiological And Emotional Changes

Growth Of Certain Regions Of Brain

Researchers have specifically observed growth in new mothers’ brain areas such as, hypothalamus, substantia nigra and amygdala, parietal lobe and prefrontal cortex. These regions are responsible for a person’s emotion, reasoning and judgement, the pleasure and reward behavior.

Release Of Dopamine

Scientists have found in several studies that just by staring at her baby, the reward centers of a mother’s brain light up. This creates dopamine, a chemical messenger that interacts with certain brain cells and causes a mother to feel really good.1

Increase In The Level Of Oxytocin

As a mother hears her baby’s pleasant coos and cries, there is an increase in the level of oxytocin in the woman’s body.

New Neural Pathways

The simple act of caring for her baby, creates new neural pathways in the mother’s brain.

Maternal Feelings

The maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry, begin with reactions in the brain.

Development Of Mothering Skills

According to the researchers, the changes to the brain of the mother may be linked to the development of mothering skills after childbirth. Hence the period directly after childbirth is an important time for new moms.

Levels Of Enthusiasm

According to studies, it has also been shown that compared to the less-enthusiastic moms, the more enthusiastic moms were more likely to develop bigger mid-brain. There is also a growth in the key regions linked to maternal motivation, rewards, and the regulation of emotions.

Smells, Sounds And Communication

The experts from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that changes in the brain, particularly associated with the perception of smells and sounds, help mothers to communicate with their babies.

Thus, motherhood does have a huge impact on a woman’s brain. Women are basically happier and possibly smarter being a mom. Many scientists believe that mapping the maternal brain may be a key to understanding why so many new mothers experience serious anxiety and depression. This may also help develop new therapeutic approaches to treat the conditions like postpartum depression and compulsive disorders.

References   [ + ]

1. Bartels, Andreas, and Semir Zeki. “The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love.” Neuroimage 21, no. 3 (2004): 1155-1166.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.