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How the Brain Changes in Pregnancy as Better Understood Via Imaging

 Pregnancy incites changes in the body — that’s common knowledge. But did you know that being pregnant also has serious repercussions on the brain? A first-of-its-kind study has found that there’s a symmetrical reduction in the brain’s grey matter during pregnancy in the medial frontal, posterior cortex, and certain sections of the prefrontal and temporal cortex.

 

The researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona surveyed a group of 25 first-time mothers before and after their births and 19 male partners, and a control group of 20 women who had never been pregnant along with 17 male partners. Their evaluations determined that women didn’t experience any changes in memory or cognitive functions while pregnant. However, the morphing state of the grey matter signified maternal attachment and the emerging attentiveness to the child’s needs. “Moreover, [the grey matter] provide[s] primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general”, said study supervisor Òscar Vilarroya.

 

The changes in grey matter also indicated the mother’s level of attachment to her baby during postpartum. The researchers also found that women who underwent fertility treatments and those who got pregnant naturally had the identical grey matter reduction patterns.

 

“These changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood,” said Erika Barba, the study’s co-lead author. 

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