If you're pregnant or have recently given birth, you're probably acutely aware that there's a whole lot that happens to your body the moments following your baby (or babies!) entrance into the world. Bodily fluids, after birth pains, colostrum, you name it and it all kicks off once that baby (or babies!) is out of your body. But have you ever wondered what happens to your brain right after you give birth? It's fascinating, you guys, that your brain is designed to change immediately after you become a mom, so you can to start protecting your baby from birth.
According to The Atlantic, your brain begins to change during pregnancy in order to prepare for taking care of and loving your baby:
"Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain...Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby."
Isn't that amazing? I mean, there are a million ways the human body is astounding, but growing a human takes the cake, in my humble opinion.
During labor and, in the hours and days after you give birth, your brain also begins to produce higher levels of the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the "love hormone." Oxytocin does practical things, like helps your uterus contract, but it also helps you bond with your baby.
Not only does your brain go into overdrive when you have a baby, your brain can actually grow in size the days and weeks after you give birth. According to Science Daily, "Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain." Apparently, "The intense sensory-tactile stimulation of a baby may trigger the adult brain to grow in key areas, allowing mothers, in this case, to "orchestrate a new and increased repertoire of complex interactive behaviors with infants..." When you read that, doesn't it just make sense? I certainly feel like my brain has grown since becoming a mom!
Overall, though, scientists believe that new moms might actually lose grey matter in their brains after giving birth. As Scientific American reports, "The researchers found that the new mothers experienced gray matter reductions that lasted for at least two years after birth." But they go on to explain that the reduction in grey matter might not be a bad thing, and that the brain is simply pruning unused or not useful parts in order to bulk up those aforementioned sections.
Either way, it's clear that giving birth does change your brain and, for lack of a better word, "remodels" it to best prepare you for taking care of and protecting your baby until they're old enough to do so themselves. And try as you might, there's probably nothing you can do about those hormones or brain cells twitching away up there so that you can respond with lightning quick reflexes when your baby cries in the night or so your milk will let down as soon as you hear your baby cry. It's just science working its magic, you guys!
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.