Brain Changes Seen in Pregnancy, May Help Preparing for Baby

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Pregnancy affects not only a woman’s body: It changes parts of her brain too, a new study says.

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. She and colleagues present the results in a paper released Monday by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

It includes data on 25 Spanish women scanned before and after their first pregnancies, along with 20 women who didn’t get pregnant during the study. The brain changes in the pregnancy group emerged from comparisons of those two groups. The 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 ten weeks after giving birth, were mostly still present two years after childbirth. That’s based on follow-up with 11 study participants. Further work showed they’re a motherhood thing: No brain changes were seen in first-time fathers. The women showed no declines on tests of memory. Based on prior research findings, the researchers think the brain changes happened during pregnancy rather than after childbirth.

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