Not all women think they have a neck for motherhood, but once a baby arrives they somehow know what to do. Not all of it, but the brain of a woman does indeed make significant shifts preparing her for a new role.
After welcoming a new person into this world, the brain goes through a transformation. This fascinating natural process involves acquiring a new set of skills, boosting capabilities and maternal instincts. These new qualities kick in during pregnancy and remain there after giving birth.
So, what exactly is a ‘mommy brain’, and does it affect you?
Mommy brain uncovered
It hasn’t been long since the neuroscientists began to study the nature of a new mother's brain. And there's still so much to learn. What we do know so far is that certain areas of the brain enlarge during pregnancy, while others shrink postpartum.
Other brain changes include the fluctuations of such hormones like oxytocin and progesterone. Both are responsible for creating a strong bond between the mother and her child. For example, there is a surge of maternal oxytocin every time she hears her baby cry.
The brain parts that represent memories and emotions like fear become extremely active after pregnancy. This is when a mother becomes more responsive to her baby’s emotions and develops strong mother instincts.
It's also very peculiar, but every time a mother hears her baby's laughter her brain activates the ‘feel-good’ chemical called dopamine. It keeps a new mom constantly motivated to take good care of her child.
A reason for a mom brain
These brain changes help a mother become more sensitive to her baby's needs and react appropriately to the specific cues the baby gives her.
A woman's brain is simply trying to help her make a smooth and healthy transition into parenthood and develop a strong mother-child bond.
Downsides of a mommy brain
Hormonal changes are essential for bringing you closer to your child. But what about some other walks of life? Newly minted mamas often notice how a mommy brain steals their focus away from other things. They can become forgetful and not attentive to details.
New moms often think that constant sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts and the surging sense of responsibility for a tiny human being are the only reasons for their lack of focus. But it’s not just that. Research tells us that brain fog happens because of a shrinking gray matter that can be observed after pregnancy. It doesn’t mean a decline in brain function—it only means that for the time being our brain makes room for the needs and demands of a newborn baby, filtering the less important stuff.
How long does mommy brain last and how to embrace it?
Postpartum foggy brain becomes a thing during pregnancy and can last for up to two years.
Many women still find it hard to adapt and don't always take it too well. Because, no matter how much you love your child, becoming a mother—especially for the first time—is tough. Though even today a woman can be shamed simply for admitting it. And this is the sad truth. This social pressure often makes women think less about themselves.
But mommy brain is nothing to be ashamed of. It's the reason why a mother is so close to her child. So, cut yourself some slack.
Also, there are a few ‘tricks’ that can help you take better care of your mom brain and cut down on that forgetfulness:
- Get enough quality sleep (the more the better);
- Set reminders about the things you tend to forget;
- Make sure you receive enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients;
- Exercise your body (do gentle yoga, go for a run with your stroller, your imagination is the limit);
- Share the information about the mommy brain with your colleagues, friends and family members;
- Learn new things about yourself, embrace and appreciate these moments.
The good news is that this period of decline in memory and attention will pass. You will return to work or your projects and will soon catch up.
But looking back on your pregnancy and these first months of mothership you'll be in awe to see how many fascinating things were happening to both your body and mind. It’s during that time, and no other, you form the strongest connection with your baby. Enjoy this time while it lasts and get the most out of this beautiful experience.