We’ve all heard the jokes about ‘Supermums’ but did you know that hormones produced during pregnancy actually alter your brain permanently, making you fitter, stronger, more emotionally aware and smarter than you were before having children?
Yep, it’s not just your body that undergoes some serious changes but also your brain, which alters on a molecular level thanks to unique hormone production experienced during pregnancy.
They didn’t mention that in pre-natal classes.
In fact motherhood has been proven in various studies to evolve a woman’s brain and develop areas previously under-utilised.
Numerous studies have shown that the volume of a woman’s brain six months after giving birth is actually significantly larger than it was pre pregnancy. Certain areas can almost double in size.
And, a woman’s abilities also increase dramatically during this process.
The chemicals produced during pregnancy and the first few weeks post partum govern new mothers behaviour. Image: istock
So how does all this happen? Well, it’s thought that the hormone production during pregnancy allows parts of the brain to grow in ways which they are unable to at any other stage of life. Surges of chemicals like oxytocin allow increased activity in certain areas and can impact everything about the way a woman behaves. Similar to the rapid growth experienced in a developing child’s brain, the increase in chemicals creates an environment which forms stronger, quicker and more efficient brain function.
Spatial awareness and cognitive performance have been shown to improve after birth which is handy when wandering the halls at night with a non-sleeping baby. A woman’s organisational skills and her ability to compartmentalise tasks also experiences rapid growth allowing mothers to multitask and recall information with greater ease.
We’ve all heard stories of ‘mum ninja’s’ seeing a hazard in their peripheral vision and responding instinctively; catching a falling child in the nick of time. Well, we can thank our babies for that because in many ways, their birth literally reprogrammed parts of our brains giving us almost superhuman skills.
Areas of the brain which govern our response to stress, anxiety and fear also experience a transformation. Scientists are particularly interested in an area known as the amygdala, which is responsible for memory and emotions like fear, anxiety and aggression - protective mama bear, anyone?
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This section of the brain has been shown to change in the initial post partum period and is believed to explain a lot of things about new mothers behaviour. The hormones allows grey matter in the brain to becomes more concentrated and increased activity in to amygdala impacts our ability to empathise, interact socially and express protectiveness. The research is important for understanding why new mothers experience anxiety and depression as well as a feeling of lack of control over their emotions and behaviours all of which can be attributed to hormones.
So there you have it, the ultimate bionic woman.