As Mother’s Day approaches, a UBC expert discusses ‘baby brain’ and other ways that motherhood changes a woman’s brain chemistry
Motherhood permanently alters the brain, exposing moms to different health risks than women without children, says UBC neuroscientist Liisa Galea.
Galea says understanding the long-term effects of motherhood will improve medical care and treatment for mothers.
Are mothers’ brains really different than other women’s?
We all know motherhood changes women’s bodies, but it also changes their brains. Some changes are temporary, but others are permanent. Our research shows that, as a result of these transformations, mothers experience different cognitive abilities and health risks than women without children. They may even react to medication differently.
What are examples of the brain differences?
The most obvious example is size: during pregnancy, a mother’s brain shrinks by up to eight per cent. It bounces back about six months after birth, but clearly this could have some repercussions.
Another example is that while women’s cells are typically all XX female chromosomes, researchers have found male XY chromosome cells in the brains of mothers who’ve had boys. Thus the cells transfer into the mothers’ bodies when the boys are in the womb.
What are the cognitive effects of these changes?
We have all heard the term “baby brain.” This refers to the forgetfulness mothers experience in their last trimester and the first months after giving birth. Impaired memory is definitely one result of the brain changes during pregnancy over the short term.
Longer term, motherhood can actually improve brain activities. Testing in rodents suggests that mothers in the longer term score better on memory and multi-tasking than females who have not given birth. It’s like their brain becomes more prepared to deal with the responsibilities of keeping their family safe and organized.
Video by University of British Columbia
Wishing you a great Mother’s Day from BridgePath Scientific. We love you Mom!!!!