MAY 13, 2017 09:53 AM PDT

Women's Brains are Never the Same After Giving Birth


Pregnancy causes a host of characteristically visible changes in a woman's body. However, some of the biggest changes may not be in plain sight. As it turns out, pregnancy induces dramatic effects in the brain of moms-to-be, and these changes can persist even years after giving birth.

In a study published last year in Nature Neuroscience, researchers scanned the brains of 25 women who were becoming mothers for the first time. The scans were collected before and after giving birth. Compared to women who had never given birth, the brains of new mothers showed significant loss of gray matter. In particular, the loss was localized to brain areas associated with social cognition. The results were surprising with no obvious explanation.

The lead author of the study, Elseline Hoekzema, theorized that loss of brain matter is a way of refining the brain so as to help women adapt to their roles as new moms. "Loss of volume does not necessarily translate to loss of function," said Hoekzema, "Sometimes less is more." She explained that the loss of gray matter could "represent a fine-tuning of synapses into more efficient neural networks."

Watch the video to learn more about how the woman's brain changes after giving birth.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
You May Also Like
NOV 21, 2019
NOV 21, 2019
What is Polycythemia Vera?
Polycythemia Vera (PV) is a slow-growing cancer of the blood. The cancer is characterized by an overproduction of blood cells within the bone marrow. Too m...
NOV 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 21, 2019
Astronomers Find At Least 20 More Moons Orbiting Saturn
Just this past week, Saturn overtook Jupiter as the planet in our solar system with the highest number of moons. Researchers from the Carnegie Institution...
NOV 21, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 21, 2019
Is the Milky Way Too "Gassy"?
Astrophysicists have long thought that our home galaxy the Milky Way has been constantly losing mass due to the escape of hydrogen gas. However, by observi...
NOV 21, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 21, 2019
China to Create National Parks System
In one of the last remote regions of the world, the Chinese Government is pushing back against development and towards its version of the United States&rsq...
NOV 21, 2019
Health & Medicine
NOV 21, 2019
Antibiotic Resistance by the Numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released its latest Antibiotic Threats in the United States report, which is summarized in the vi...
NOV 21, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 21, 2019
How a Rattlesnake's 'Rattle' Works
Rattlesnakes are one of the most discernible snakes in the animal kingdom, not only because of their appearance, but also because of how they shake their t...
Loading Comments...