Posted by Deborah Pujoue on January 23, 2012
When I was pregnant with my girls, I remember constantly forgetting things. I often walked into rooms and couldn’t remember what I went in there for. I am still like that now, but according to a recent study, that may finally be explained.
A new study has recently been published in December issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, claiming that pregnancy is not just a big time for the baby’s development — it is also a time for mom’s brain to change. So far, these changes aren’t completely understood (at least according to a recent review that was published), but the study suggests that the “pregnancy brain” or “mommy brain” that we women talk about is not only real, but may be permanent. I still live in that “memory fog,” and one 2010 study says that this started because of high levels of sex hormones that are produced during pregnancy.
“Pregnancy is a critical period for central nervous system development in mothers,” review author Laura Glynn, a psychologist at Chapman University in California, said. “Yet we know virtually nothing about it.”
Now research is showing that babies in utero have a huge effect on their mothers because we share cells with our babies. This is called microchimerism. It occurs when fetal cells pass through the placenta and get stuck in the mother’s body, where they stay in a dormant state for years. In fact, a study conducted in 2005 showed that “in pregnant mice, these fetal cells hang out in the brain, especially in smell-related areas that are crucial for recognizing offspring. No one yet knows what, if anything, these fetal interlopers do there, or whether fetal cells in humans are similarly drawn to mothering-related areas of the brain.”
It is currently believed that some of the changes in the brain during pregnancy are useful at helping the mother tune in to her baby’s needs once it’s born. Glynn says that the baby’s movements in utero trigger something in the mother’s subconscious that also helps with bonding and in general helps the mother to be more sensitive toward her baby and more effective as a parent in general. In that sense, permanent pregnancy brain is more than worth it.