Pregnancy alters woman's brain 'for at least two years'
When the brains of 25 first-time mothers were scanned soon after they had become pregnant and again after they had given birth, "substantial" reductions in the volume of grey matter were revealed.
Pregnant women have often complained of brain fog and poor memory, but researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Autonomous University of Barcelona say that rather than indicating a simple loss of mental capacity or intelligence, the changes represent a pruning and refinement of brain circuits.
They say the changes largely affect areas of the brain associated with the ability to attribute thoughts and feelings to oneself and other people, and could help women adapt to motherhood by recognising threats to their baby or anticipating the child's needs.
Parts of the brain where grey matter had been pruned lit up on MRI scans when mothers saw pictures of their own babies. The brains of first-time fathers did not show such changes in structure.