The Amazing Brain Changes in Pregnancy Linked to Mother-Infant Attachment

Posted on May 18, 2017

During pregnancy, a woman undergoes many biological adaptations, which are driven by a cascade of secreted sex hormones. This sex hormone surge includes a 10- to 15-fold increase in progesterone relative to the luteal phase. In addition, a woman’s estrogen levels exceed the entire amount that was secreted prior to becoming pregnant.

E = Estrogen; P = Progesterone; hCG = Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

E = Estrogen; P = Progesterone; hCG = Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

Previous research in animals has suggested that there are physiological changes in the brain with functional alterations in gene expression, cellular morphology and cell proliferation rates. These adaptive processes are a long lasting functional specialisation that changes a female’s behaviour in preparation for motherhood.

A recently published study in Nature Neuroscience highlighted that certain regions in the human brain changed in first time (primiparous) mothers when compared with non-pregnant (nulliparous) women.

References

Pregnancy changes in the Brain

Hoekzema E, et al. Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Nature Neuroscience. 2017