Whether you’ve been there yourself or not, we all know pregnancy causes A LOT of changes, from the shape of your body, to your career, to your bank balance, basically every aspect of your life.
Now according to a new study, pregnancy also changes the actual structure of your brain.
The study conducted by researchers out of Leiden University in the Netherlands, found that pregnancy triggers long-term changes to the structure and a reduction in grey matter which affects emotional attachment and was found to last for at least two years.
Researchers scanned the brains of women who had never conceived before, and then again after they gave birth.
“These changes were remarkably consistent,” said Elseline Hoekzema, co-author of the research from Leiden University tells The Guardian.
“So consistent that a computer algorithm could automatically identify which of the women in our sample had been pregnant between the sessions and which [had] not.”
The research suggests the cause for the change could be to help mother’s understand their baby’s needs and nurture the bond between the child and the mother.
“Brain changes may sound somewhat intimidating, but our findings suggest that there may be an evolutionary purpose to these changes that may serve you in some way when you become a mother,” added Hoekzema.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers compared the scans of the first-time mothers before and after pregnancy, alongside those of 20 women who had never been pregnant, 19 first-time fathers, and 17 men who had never had children.
The study found a link between the region of the brain that is often called the “theory of mind network” which gives a person the ability to empathise, or put themselves in another person’s shoes, reports The Guardian.
However, Hoekzema was quick to shoot down any ideas that ‘pregnancy makes you lose your brain’.
“[It] is not that mothers are losing brain cells, losing grey matter in these regions, it is that they have actually have other cells come in to help reorganise and change up some of those connections to strengthen them, or at least make them more efficient,” she added.