Pregnancy might change your brain, say researchers

Why do moms wake up at the slightest whimper from the baby while dad stays fast asleep? And why do we forget where we put the keys? According to two women researchers, the lost-key syndrome and the light-sleep syndrome that hit when you became a mom might have something to do with hormones. In fact, the researchers believe that pregnancy changes women’s brains for the long term, making us both more foggy-headed and also more tuned in to our babies.

We tend to think of puberty as the time of greatest hormonal change, but pregnancy beats it. And the surge of reproductive hormones that course through our bodies during those 9 months appear to make us both less stressed and more responsive, setting us up for motherhood.

Most research up until now has studied how a mom-to-be’s hormones affect the fetus. New research is looking at how the fetus affects the mom. Even when a pregnant woman is unaware of it, fetal movement raises her heart rate and makes her skin more conductive. Fetal cells pass through the placenta into the mother’s bloodstream. “It’s exciting to think about whether those cells are attracted to certain regions in the brain,” that are connected with maternal behavior, says psychologist Laura M. Glynn of ChapmanUniversity, one of the two researchers.

Do you have mama brain? does it feel better to know that forgetting where you put your keys might be part of a bigger picture that makes you a better mom?