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Pregnancy makes the brain shrink

Image: Envato / nd3000

Pregnancy makes the brain shrink

Pregnancy changes the brain - according to a study by the University of Barcelona. And what is even more astonishing is that the brain becomes smaller.

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Schwangerschaft lässt das Gehirn schrumpfen

Pregnancy leads to various hormonal adjustments and physical adaptations

During pregnancy, the female body undergoes fundamental changes: the joints in the  pelvis loosen and the baby pushes the organs in the mother’s abdomen to one side. Pregnancy hormones are released, causing side effects such as nausea, tiredness and back pain.

During pregnancy, a woman’s estrogen levels increase ten to fifteenfold. This also applies to the hormone progesterone, which prepares the uterus for pregnancy.

Pregnancy has a variety of neurological effects

Only recently has it become known that pregnancy also has an effect on the female brain. This is the result of a study conducted by the University of Barcelona. Scientists examined magnetic resonance images of 25 first-time mothers before and after pregnancy.
The researchers theorize that processes in the brain of pregnant women are designed to create the greatest possible emotional bond with the child. While certain cognitive abilities are shut down, regions that trigger and process emotions are significantly more active. Accordingly, there may also be major changes in areas of the brain that affect social cognition.

The cerebrum loses brain cells

In the areas of the prefrontal and temporal cortex, which are located in the cerebrum, the amount of gray brain matter decreased. The pregnant women were found to have a reduced brain volume overall. A later examination of the women revealed that the changes persisted over a longer period of time and were still present two years after the birth of the child.

Are pregnant women like adolescents?

Finally, the researchers drew a comparison with puberty. This phase of life is also accompanied by major changes in the hormone balance. And here, too, new networks in the brain are formed as a result. In general, however, the physical changes during pregnancy are considered to be more complex than during puberty.

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