Study Examines How the Brain Changes During and After Pregnancy

Researchers from Charles III University of Madrid in Spain have led a study examining how women’s brains change from late-stage pregnancy to after they give birth.

The research team examined 110 women’s brains during their final weeks of pregnancy and again roughly three weeks after they gave birth. The results found that women lost some of the brain’s gray matter during the late stage of their pregnancy, but gained it back postpartum. When examining the women’s brain circuits, the research team found that the default mode network changes during pregnancy and remains changed after giving birth. This network is thought to be connected to self-reflection, as well as the ability to empathize with others.

Additionally, the study reviewed how these alterations in the brain differed for women who gave birth vaginally or through an emergency cesarean section versus a scheduled cesarean operation. The researchers discovered that women who delivered their baby vaginally or via an emergency C-section took longer to gain back the gray matter they lost during pregnancy. The researchers theorize their findings could be contributed to the change in hormones that occur during labor and over the course of a woman’s entire pregnancy.

The study authors highlight that more research is needed using a more diverse sample of mothers as historically, research on pregnant women has relied on educated women from mid-high socio-economic status. They write that their “findings position the perinatal period as a sensitive and vulnerable time for women’s neuroplasticity that deserves protection and further study.”

Filed Under: Research/Study


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