Pregnancy, the divine capacity of Women alone, sustaining life on Earth is but something more than “just” that we all know.
Motherhood is a multi-dimensioned complex phenomenon on its own. The moment a woman gets pregnant, alterations start landing in her world – physically in her body and even more mentally on her psyche.
The dreams, aspirations, and talents of a bright young lady now turn into that of a mother – focusing all her rays of energy on her child alone.
Adding a feather to all this is the latest study by the University of Barcelona, that has proved that women undergo something even more than the changes above – That the Brain undergoes long-lasting alterations in its structure during pregnancy.
And for what? Probably related to improving the mother's ability to protect and interact with the child.
Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations, but the effects on the brain were unknown till now.
In this first of its kind research, the scientists compared the brain structure of women before and after their first pregnancy.
Using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques, it was seen that significant reductions took place in specific Grey matter areas in the brains of women after their first pregnancy. These reductions were observed in parts relating to social cognition.
More than the perplexity of the result, there is a divinity in the observations made further – These researchers believe that the changes observed correspond to an adaptive process of functional specialization- a preparation towards motherhood:
Elseline Hoekzema, co-lead author of the article says, "These changes may reflect, at least in part, a mechanism of synaptic pruning, which also takes place in adolescence, where weak synapses are eliminated giving way to more efficient and specialized neural networks."
According to Erika Barba, the other co-lead author, “these changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood."
The functional neuroimaging of these women were taken during sessions when they were shown the pictures of their babies revealed that the brain regions activated during these “love-sessions” with their babies were the same areas where Grey matter reductions were observed during pregnancy!!
The study setup included comparing magnetic resonance images of 25 first-time mothers before and after their pregnancy and of a control group formed by 20 women who were not and had never been pregnant. The information required of the participants were collected for over five years and four months.
The results of the research directed by Òscar Vilarroya and Susanna Carmona demonstrated a symmetrical reduction in the volume of Grey matter in the medial frontal and posterior cortex line, as well as in specific sections of, mainly, prefrontal and temporal cortex in pregnant women.
"These areas correspond to a great extent with a network associated with processes involved in social cognition and self-focused processing," pipes in Susanna Carmona.
The research and observations could be gathered to such a high precision that the researchers could determine with great reliability whether any woman from the study had been pregnant depending on the changes in the brain structure.
However, researchers did not observe any changes in memory or other cognitive functions during the pregnancies and therefore believe that the loss of Grey matter does not imply any cognitive deficits, but rather:
"The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn's emotional state. Moreover, they provide primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general," says Oscar Vilarroya.