From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published December 22, 2011 10:00 AM

The Female Brain During Pregnancy

Perhaps at no time is the human brain more altered than in a pregnant woman. It is a time of intense changes within the body not felt since puberty. The changes are not all physical though. What causes the unexplained cravings, the odd awakenings in the night, and the overall change in mood? According to a research study published in the journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, there is a lot which we do not understand about the female brain during pregnancy.

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"Pregnancy is a critical period for the central nervous system development in mothers, yet we know nothing about it," concluded Laura M. Glynn, psychologist at Chapman University, along with her colleague, Curt A. Sandman of UC Irvine.

Pregnant women are well aware that what they do, how they live, and what they eat will affect the baby. If they eat very little, the baby will be adapted to eating little, but may become obese by consuming normal amounts of food. If the mother eats a lot, the baby will become accustomed to a larger appetite and may likely grow up to be overweight. Stress levels of the mother can also have a great effect on the baby's cognitive development. Of course, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco will have a negative effect as well.

What many do not consider is how the baby will affect them. Pregnant women undergo massive hormonal fluctuations. Earlier research has suggested that the increase in hormones is meant to prepare the woman's brain for the rigors of motherhood. They perhaps create a strong bond between mother and child, making the woman more aware of the baby's needs. They may even help in calming the mother down, so not to get too rattled and stressed out with a potentially colicky baby.

Certain actions made by the baby within the womb can also affect the mother. When the baby moves, even if the mother is unaware, the mother's heart rate and skin conductivity will rise. This may be a sign of a growing mother-child bond.

Cells from the growing baby in the womb can also be passed through the placenta into the mother's bloodstream. The fetal cells can be transported all throughout the body, including certain regions of the brain. The communion of mother-child cells together may explain many reasons for the increased and seemingly supernatural mother-child bond, as well as other mental changes within the mother.

Link to published article: http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/20/6/384.abstract

Image credit: S.Borisov/Shutterstock

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