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19 Ways A Woman's Brain Changes After Kids (1 Way Dad Does Too)

One day mom's enjoying her long leisurely weekends, sleeping in, brunch, or maybe even a spontaneous vacation with her significant other. At this point in her life, she is focused on her career, personal goals, and growing her relationships, it is her time to be selfish. Then suddenly, everything is flipped upside down.

As she looks in the mirror and realizes she has intense grow outs, and she has been wearing the same shirt for three days in a row, she may ask herself: “What’s happened? Who have I become?”

The answer is simple. She is now a mom. Her needs are no longer her own, and she has a small little nugget relying on her. Don’t worry, it won't always feel this hard, and most of these changes won't last forever. But, scientists have come to a consensus that having children permanently changes aspects of a woman's personality, behavior, and brain development.

For now, women should take a minute to herself. Grab that cold cup of coffee that has been sitting in your microwave for two hours and read on to see the 19 ways her brain changes after having a child, and don’t worry, there's one for the dads too!

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20 Moms Become Obsessed With The Little One

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You can expect to be fawned over from the moment you announce that you are pregnant. Everyone loves a pregnant lady! You will immediately get tips and words of wisdom from those closest to you. The one thing you will undoubtedly hear from each person is, “you don’t know what love is until you have a child.” When you hear this, you may smile politely but think to yourself, “of course I know what love is, how dare they! I love my spouse, and my dog, how can a baby be any different.” Some women feel this way throughout their entire pregnancy, but then, once the baby is born, a distinct shift happens.

This shift in thinking is due to the wonderful, natural hormone known as oxytocin.

Oxytocin is typically referred to as the love hormone because of its' ability to enhance our capacity for love.

It is made in the hypothalamus and causes physiological and behavioral effects when its produced in the body. When you are pregnant, and especially after childbirth, you experience an increase in oxytocin. Scientists agree that becoming a parent is a lot like falling in love. Ruth Feldman states that Maternal oxytocin levels dramatically increase during pregnancy and the postpartum [period] and the more mother is involved in childcare, the greater the increase in oxytocin.”

If it takes you awhile to feel this extreme love, don’t worry it takes some women time to have this bond. But when it does take over, it will last a lifetime.

19 Moms "Forget" The Pain

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One of nature’s greatest designs could be a woman’s ability to forget the trauma of childbirth. Some women have quick, two-hour natural deliveries and claim that “it didn’t hurt at all, in fact, it was magical.” Even though labor is referred to as the ‘miracle of childbirth,’ I am inclined to think these ladies are lying…or extremely lucky. Most women find labor to be extremely unpleasant, but even with the most difficult of labors; after their child is born, they “forget” all of the pain.

During labor, her brain produces oxytocin, which helps with contractions, and beta-endorphin, which is an endorphin hormone that her brain releases in times of stress and pain.

Studies have shown that over 50% of women remember childbirth as being less painful and intense than it actually was. Oxytocin is like nature's painkiller. Both bet-endorphin and oxytocin also help you forget after labor. The oxytocin helps you to “forget yourself” and provides an intense feeling of love which helps you immediately bond with your newborn. Beta-endorphin turns on the learning and memory processes while simultaneously induce feelings of euphoria. This explains why you can remember your birth vividly, all while wearing rose-colored glasses.

Regardless of the reason, we are lucky that nature allows us to look back fondly at our time spent in labor. Otherwise, the future of the human species would be at risk.

18 Moms Are Greater With Facial Recognition

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When you hear the term facial recognition, you may think of a Sci-Fi movie or the new iPhone X. Rarely do you link the term “facial recognition” correlates to pregnancy and motherhood. Interestingly enough, after years of studying the brains of pregnant women and new mothers, researchers have found that these women have an increased skill of depicting emotional states.

This process allows mothers to focus more on their children and their cues so that they can anticipate their babies needs.

While pregnant, neurons in your hippocampus are ramping up activity levels, and progesterone and estrogen are also intensifying at rapid rates. This is also true for recognizing facial cues in others. One study showed mothers-to-be images of human faces and asked them to rate the emotions on each face. They found that As pregnancy progresses, mothers become more efficient at recognizing the emotions on the faces of others. Intriguingly, the greatest recognition increase pertains to faces exhibiting dangerous conditions – fear (perhaps of a visible threat), disgust (contamination threat), and anger (direct physical threat)."

You can see why recognizing an emotion on your babies face is beneficial, but the increased recognition of stranger’s facial emotions is a deeply ingrained self-preservation technique. It allows you to anticipate dangerous or threatening situations and avoid them accordingly.

17 Mom May Be Less Attracted To Spouse

Every relationship goes through its share of changes, but one thing that usually remains constant is the level of attraction you feel towards your significant other.

You may find that their mere presence raises your level of annoyance; their touch is undesirable, or even that their smell suddenly turns your stomach. But, I promise it doesn’t last forever.

Sadly, even though these thoughts are normal, it can be a very depressing period in a relationship.

These feelings can be attributed to the increase of hormones in your body, specifically estradiol, which is a hormone responsible for your sudden sensitivity to certain smells. In addition to your new flood of hormones, pregnancy can cause a lot of mental stress. Suddenly your life is about to change, and you have a to-do list that is ten miles long.

The fact is, you are constantly worried about these changes, and your focus is on all things baby. As a result, you may start to see your spouse as just another chore, and not as the partner you chose to go on this magical journey with.

While this is all extremely normal, try your best to be transparent with your significant other. Instead of freezing them out, or snapping at them, be open and have a conversation about your feelings. Also, remind yourself that they are going through this too, and they most likely need extra love and support.

16 Masterful Multi-Tasking

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The first days that you have your little one home, are among the most difficult. You are recovering and trying to navigate this new life. Your baby has a myriad of needs, and you are expected to meet all of them, without hesitation. During this time, having an extra set of hands (or five) would be extremely helpful. The good news is, you’re in luck!

The huge hormonal rush women experience in pregnancy actually boosts her ability to multitask.

Scientists have recently conducted a study on rodents to prove the theory of maternal multitasking. They took pregnant rodents and ran them through different tasks. They found that pregnant rodents were able to forage for food faster, multitask, and had less anxiety than their non-pregnant counterparts.

On a biological level, this is nature’s way of ensuring that you will be able to find food, secure shelter, and protect your child from outside threats. While we may not face these exact struggles, this increased capability to multitask allows you to keep a laser-eyed focus on your baby while meeting your own survival needs, and the needs of your house and career.

Even more simply put, you now have one of the greatest superpowers out there.

15 Mom's Personality Will Change

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Pregnancy does a number on your body and your personality. During this time, you can experience extreme mood swings. Think, Jekyll and Hyde's level of personality disorder. One day, you may love eating strawberries and watching Scandal, and the next day the mere thought of that sticky sweet fruit, and Olivia Pope's face would drive you to immediate irritation.

These mood swings will undoubtedly affect all of the people around you, and it is important to recognize that even though this is a natural and normal part of pregnancy, you need to move forward with the understanding that the people closest to you don’t fully get what you are going through internally.

One could describe it as really bad Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) that just doesn’t go away. These sudden mood swings are due to fatigue, changes in your metabolism, and hormone levels. Mood swings are most common in the first trimester of pregnancy and then reappear in the third trimester.

If you want to keep your mood steady during pregnancy, first realize that this happens to everyone. The key is to manage your stress levels. You can do this by getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical exercise, planning a fun activity, or taking a prenatal yoga class.

The important thing is to not worry! Those closest to you understand the tremendous amount of pressure you are going through.

14 Mom's Right Brain Is Ready

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You may remember the terms “left brained” and “right brained” from your high school career aptitude test. While these may not be the best indicators of success in future careers, it does influence certain parts of your personality.

It is often thought that a person who is “left-brained” is more analytical, logical and objective. Conversely, a person who is “right-brained” is thought to be more creative, thoughtful and intuitive.

One would think that during pregnancy, she would become left-brained dominant to accommodate the new, logical thinking that is required to juggle the tasks of motherhood.

In reality, it is just the opposite. When you are pregnant, you actually become right-brained dominant.

Researchers at the University of London found that pregnant women show a significantly higher use of the right brain hemisphere compared to new moms when registering positive emotions.

This switch in brain function is caused by your body’s biological need to bond with your baby. Changing the way your process facial emotions, and highlighting positive emotions ensures that you are neurologically prepared to bond with your baby at birth.

13 Mom's Drive For Intimacy Decreases

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In the words of Marvin Gaye, “let's not get it on”, wait isn’t that how the song goes? In all seriousness, no amount of smooth R&B or oysters will cure your decrease in desire for intimacy. This may be bad news for you and your partner, but it is a common side effect of pregnancy and new motherhood.

Many people assume that a woman’s drive will increase during pregnancy. While this happens for some lucky women, it is not the case for most.

In the first trimester, expect your libido to reach all-time lows. This is due to the hormonal changes taking place that are priming you for the birth of your bundle. Robin Weiss, Ph.D. states that “When it comes to drive, the sudden surge of progesterone and estrogen during the first trimester can have a contradictory effect. The sensory overstimulation may leave you feeling edgy rather than energized. Morning sickness and fatigue are also common, both of which do little to enhance desire.”

Things start to even out again in the second trimester, but in the third trimester you experience another surge of hormones to prep you for delivery, this can inhibit your feelings of intimacy. Even after the pregnancy, it may take some time to get back to a normal routine. The demands of a newborn may make the both of you exhausted, especially for the first few months.

You should take this all in stride. It is the by-product of creating life, and you never know, you may be one of the lucky ones!

12 The Fur Babies May Become Annoying

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We all have that one friend who is obsessed with their pet. They may post non-stop selfies; get it registered as a “service animal” (we’re looking at you Barb, we know you just want to fly with him in your lap), or even go as far as to spoon-feed their fur baby. But take a minute to think, do any of these people have kids? The answer is most likely ‘no’. Sadly enough, when a new baby moves into the house, your pet will most likely move out of the bed and become less of a priority.

You may think, “your crazy, my dog IS my child, and when its human brother/sister comes along, nothing will change.” But, everything changes.

The new demands of motherhood bring on a ton of stress and sleepless nights. You are exhausted and focusing your attention on feedings, and meeting the many needs of your little one. During this time, you may find it difficult to take a shower and eat a full meal, let alone take Fido to the dog park. They truly become just a “pet” because your priorities have changed. Now, this doesn’t mean that you love them less; you just don’t have space in your brain to remember that they like to listen to the Discovery Channel when you leave the house.

If you want to minimize the impact on your pet, have a friend or family member lined up to take them on walks for the first few weeks. You may even need to set up some new routines that you can carry on after the baby is born.

Whatever you choose to do, remember, they will love you unconditionally, even if they are a little jealous of their human sibling.

11 There Will Be Relationship Friction

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It should come as no surprise that a side effect of your hormonal shift and mood swings could put tension on relationships with those closest to you. Friction most commonly develops between you and your significant other. I mean they live with you, watch while you cry into a bowl of pasta because the sauce doesn’t taste ‘red’ enough, and bears witness to your epic meltdown because the Starbucks at Target is closed. Trust me, I get it. But just because they understand the cause of your behavior, doesn’t mean they deserve to be your punching bag.

When you are pregnant, you feel the pressure of having to make decisions for yourself and your unborn child. In addition to this added pressure, the mixture of hormones, and lack of sleep leave you primed to fight, nitpick, and nag. Chances are, your spouse may also feel a lot of the same stresses and emotions and may be quicker to snap back when arguing.

Before you threaten to break up, make a valid effort to communicate with your partner. Talk openly about the fears you have, I would bet you both have similar fears in regards to bringing a new life into the relationship. Most importantly, schedule a time in the day to connect. Hug, hold hands, talk about your hopes for the future, work on the nursery together. Remember, this is supposed to be a joyous time, and it won't be long before you are a family of three.

10 Mom Gets A Short Temper

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You know to expect mood swings, and squabbles with your partner, but if you find yourself screaming expletives at the cars around you when stuck in traffic, you may be thinking, “who have I become?” Well, you have become a pregnant woman, and having a short fuse is one of the many new perks.

This may seem like a stereotypical symptom, but a lot of women find themselves with a passionate, and sometimes irrational, temper throughout their pregnancy.

Your new temper can be attributed to the release of new chemicals in your brain, but also on external stimuli such as inequality. When you are pregnant you may suddenly realize how your employer treats pregnant women, or that they have poor maternity leave policies. This can leave you forced to struggle with work issues and can carry over to your home life. These incidences continue to lower your threshold and anger can brew.

Aside from external stimuli, the hormonal shifts you experience that cause mood swings, also lower your tolerance for irritants. For example, before pregnancy, you could most likely ignore your neighbor’s loud music. But now, you find that you simply can't stand their music, or their face, or the fact that they planted hideous flowers outside (hence, irrational). This then leaves you spiraling into the varied depths of anger until you say something to them (not advised) or take it out on your family (also not advised).

We know you are scared, stressed, uncomfortable, and not having any of it! So what can you do? The most beneficial thing you can do is relax. Meditate, take deep breaths, and go for a walk, anything to get you into your happy place. Also, reach out to your loved ones for support. I am sure they will jump at the chance to help you navigate this path!

9 Mom Has No Time For Toxic Relationships

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Being a mom not only changes you personally, but it changes the relationships you have with others. Before you became a mother, you probably tolerated friends and family that were emotionally exhausting to deal with.

Growing up, we all had at least one friend, parent, or siblings that required a lot of work and mental energy. A toxic relationship can be defined as “a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.”

When you are in the thick of it, you don’t realize the toll these kinds of relationships take on your body and soul. This changes when you become pregnant, and especially after your baby is born. As a new mom, you are flooded with hormones and emotions. These hormones enhance your ability to focus and multitask, and pretty much only care about the well being of your child. Since you are extremely tuned into their needs, you quickly realize that you no longer have the energy or desire to meet the needs of people that cannot reciprocate the favor.

If you find that someone close is constantly putting you down, egocentric, passive-aggressive, co-dependent, and flings guilt trips in your direction, it is time to cut ties.

Now that you have a little nugget to think about, this decision should be far easier to make, and you will approach the situation with a newfound sense of clarity.

8 Mom's Biologically Wired To Protect

I can guarantee that you have read articles featuring a mother who could lift a car to save their baby. You are also familiar with terms such as “mama bear” and “ mother hen.” The reason these references are so familiar to us is that they are rooted in truth. Mothers are biologically wired to protect their children.

A mother’s instinct is to protect their child at all costs. Whether it’s from a bully, sickness, or immediate danger, this instinct is hard-wired into your brain. The biological basis for behavior, known as maternal aggression is not well understood but is being studied. Stephen Gammie from the University of Wisconsin studied mice that had just given birth. They tested to see how mice reacted to the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is released in the brain and helps to control behavior. He found that mice given the lowest dose of CRH displayed typical behavior, and aggressively protected their offspring from danger. Mice that were given a higher dose of CRH were actually fearful and did not protect their offspring.

This study indicates that CRH is primarily responsible for your mama bear instincts and that a high level of CRH could actually be linked to Postpartum Depression.

7 Mom Has Brain Shrinkage (Be Careful, Dads)

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This definitely sounds like an old wives tale, but it is true, your brain actually shrinks while you are pregnant. Of course, this loss in volume doesn’t mean that you have lost functionality. In actuality, your brain shrinking makes it possible for you to get more things done in a shorter amount of time, which is necessary if you’re a busy mama.

According to a new study published in the journal, Nature Neuroscience, “The loss, rather than diminish this area of brain processing, appears to make it more efficient, enabling improved interpretation of their babies’ needs and emotions, and therefore increasing their maternal attachment. It’s making things more organized, streamlined, coherent to prepare mothers for the complexity and urgency of childcare”

This is done in a process called synaptic pruning. Synaptic pruning is essential to brain development because it eliminates connections that are not used often enough. Your brain goes through a major pruning phase during childhood, and again during motherhood. Think of it like a good old-fashioned spring-cleaning.

Parenting is an extremely complex and demanding task. It takes 110% of your attention, and this process greatly aids your ability to meet the needs of your baby.

6 Mom Has An Increase In Intelligence

Even though you may feel frazzled and forget what day of the week it currently is, you actually experience an increase in intelligence after you have a baby! This could be why you suddenly have a knack for Sudoku or now possess the capability of finishing the NY Times crossword puzzle at record speed. Well okay, maybe these things haven’t happened to you, but you still are receiving benefits of this extra dash of brilliance.

A study conducted at Yale University found that motherhood sets off structural changes in your brain. These changes actually increase your brains processing capabilities. Becoming a mother increases brain growth in the areas of motivation and behavior. Moms who openly gush over how adorable and smart their baby is actually exhibiting more signs of increased intelligence.

This brain growth is essential to the survival of your child. An increase in maternal motivation ensures that a mother is behaving in a nurturing manner that helps the baby thrive physically, emotionally and cognitively.

Now, what are you doing to do with all of this extra brainpower and motivation? You could take a class to bolster up your skills in an area you have been curious about, start on a passionate project, or simply get up early and schedule some much needed me time!

5 Pregnancy Brain Is A Real Thing

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Momnesia is defined as forgetfulness in a pregnant woman or mother. While this is a humorous take on “amnesia,” it is a very real occurrence. If you find that you have locked yourself out of the house, put cereal in the fridge, and forget what you were going to say every 15 seconds, you most likely have a case of “mom brain.”

Researchers have found that 50-80% of women experience some level of cognitive difficulty. Memory problems are among the most common cognitive difficulties. Pregnancy brain can be attributed to the many changes that are happening inside of your body. Jane Martin, MD, director of the Neuropsychological Testing and Evaluation Center at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, attributes this lapse in memory to lack of sleep, “When you are not getting enough sleep and are multitasking, nobody's memory is good you are not cognitively sharp when you haven't slept well.”

In addition to lack of sleep, the dramatic increase in hormones also affects your spatial memory. Spatial memory is your ability to memorize information about your environment. This is the reason why you can remember where your best friend keeps their secret snack drawer! In actuality, when your spatial memory is affected, you can easily forget simple things like where your car keys are, or where you put your cell phone.

While this may be a minor inconvenience, take our advice and soak it up now! Pretty soon you won't be able to use the “mom brain” excuse when you forget an important appointment.

4 Mom's Hormone Surges (Obviously)

It may seem that hormones are responsible for every positive and adverse symptom associated with pregnancy, and that’s because they are! Hormones are the main culprit and mastermind behind the new changes in your brain.

There is between 15 and 40 times more progesterone and estrogen infusing the brain during pregnancy. That is a huge increase compared to what you usually experience during your normal cycle. These hormones affect all of the neuron development in your brain. Dr. Diane Sanford says that: “Significant changes in your hormones can affect your levels of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that regulate mood.”

You’re most likely to experience these changes at around 6 to 10 weeks, and then again in the third trimester as your body prepares for labor and delivery.

All women respond to these changes differently, and she can feel emotions ranging from mood swings to depression, to anxiety.

The increased level of these hormones is also responsible for the magnification of complex emotions. You may find that you are easily moved to tears by not only sad things but things that make you extremely happy. They can also increase your anxiety and put the focus on your changing body and the health of your fetus.

It is important to not fully succumb to these new emotions. Overreaction can be problematic, especially if you cant give reasons for your behavior. Instead, you should engage in positive self-talk, meditate and know that these feelings won't go on forever.

3 The Grey Matter Restructures

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Grey matter is a major component of your central nervous system. Grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control

When you are pregnant, the volume of grey matter actually decreases in your brain. According to a study conducted by Nature Neuroscience, “Results reveal that the new mothers experienced a decrease in the volume of grey matter – thought by the authors to imply a fine-tuning of connections – in regions of the brain involved in social processes, with the majority of the changes found to last at least two years after giving birth.”

The regions of the brain that showed a drop in the grey matter actually overlaps with areas linked to the “Theory-Of-Mind Network”. This area of the brain allows you to feel empathy and put yourself in other people’s shoes. This is due to the fact that your brain will have to work overtime to meet your babies’ needs, and therefore, your capability for meeting others needs, or feeling empathy will diminish, but just for a while.

This decrease in grey matter usually only lasts up to two years. After this time, you and your baby function like a well-oiled machine and you can anticipate their every whim. At this time, you will be able to spread your focus and attention on others.

2 New Career Paths May Be A Priority

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Pre-baby, your priorities were most likely 90% centered on your own personal development. Whether you liked to travel, focused on your career, or took time to meditate, you did you! There is absolutely nothing selfish about this, but a lot changes to your mindset post-baby.

The rush of oxytocin responsible for the instant love, mixed with the cocktail of hormones can be the trigger that vastly alters her dreams and wants.

Maybe you were focused on climbing the corporate ladder, but now want to be a stay-at-home mom. You may want to give them a childhood like the one you had, and be home when they get out of school, drive them to their activities, make Pinterest worthy dinners, and have the ability to focus solely on them. This is a perfect fit for some mothers, and others may find it very difficult to stay home. Which is okay!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have women who feel that motherhood ignited a new career passion. Whether you take on a new role at your company, switch careers entirely, or focus on building your own business, you are changing your path.

Take Jessica Alba for example. She is an amazingly well-known actress, but after having a child, she developed a passion for green and healthy baby products. And from that love, The Honest Company was born.

Regardless of the path you take, these career changes are normal and happen thanks to the love and connection you feel to your child.

1 Dads Get New Neurons Too!

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Finally, something for the dads reading this. You are now well aware of the amazing affects pregnancy and motherhood has on your brain, but dad’s brain is affected too.

Of course, the changes seen in men begin after the baby is born. Becoming a father actually creates notable changes in regards to your brain activity. Pilyoung Kim, a researcher from the Universities of Denver and Yale conducted a study on this phenomenon.

He scanned the brains of 16 new fathers twice. The first scan was performed between 2 and 4 weeks after their babies were born, and the second took place between 12-16 weeks. Pilyoung found, “Functional changes in the brains of fathers, in the way that they show heightened neural activity in response to the sight of their own infants. This is the first time that researchers have documented structural changes in the brains of human fathers.”

The structural change exhibited was found in increased grey matter volume in several areas of the brain. Similarly to new mothers, these changes take place to guarantee attachment and nurturing behaviors’

So this must be why all dads seem to melt into a sweet, gooey puddle when their infant reaches up and grabs their finger for the first time!

References: Scientific American, VeryWellPregnancy, WebMd, USA TodayThe Atlantic

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