New Research Reveals Surprising Ways Pregnancy Alters Brain Structure and Function

Posted on:March 11, 2023
Last Updated: March 11, 2023
Time to read: 2 minutes

The effects of pregnancy and childbirth on the brain, mood, and behaviour are significant and often enduring.

The latest research evidence on the maternal brain was shared at the annual Neuroscience 2022 conference, the leading event for news on brain science and health.

Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, are common among women who give birth.

If left untreated, these issues can negatively impact parents, babies, families, and society in the long term. Research into the brain changes experienced by mothers is starting to provide insights into the neural processes behind these changes and the development of perinatal mental health problems.

The new findings from the conference show that:

1. The likelihood of developing postpartum depression in a rodent model is linked to changes in neuroimmune markers and hormones that may act as risk markers or targets for treatment.

Immunological changes play an essential part in the pathogenesis of postpartum psychosis. 

2. Factors that control gene expression in learning and memory networks may play a role in the long-term effects of maternal experiences on the brain in mice.

3. The persistent antidepressant effects of allopregnanolone in postpartum depression may result from its impact on the coordination of activity across brain regions involved in mood regulation. The Default mode network (DMN) plays an important role in mediating the risk of postpartum depression. 

Neurosteroids in Psychiatry – Pharmacology | Mechanisms of Action | Clinical Application

Jodi Pawluski, a neuroscientist and psychotherapist affiliated with the Université de Rennes 1, who studies the effects of motherhood on the brain, said: 

The neuroscience findings discussed today cover different aspects of the maternal experience and involve various brain regions. These studies into the maternal brain provide an important understanding of the neuroscience of parenting and have implications for treating perinatal mental illness.

Learn more: 

  1. The Amazing Brain Changes in Pregnancy Linked to Mother-Infant Attachment
  2. Postpartum (Puerperal) Psychosis – Pathophysiology | Diagnosis | Management
  3. Zuranolone Improved Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia in Postpartum Depression
  4. Neurosteroids in Psychiatry – Pharmacology | Mechanisms of Action | Clinical Application