Monday, April 19, 2010

The Mommy Brain

I realized that I am fascinated not only with the mind (hypnotherapy, meditation, etc) but also with the brain. Since I heart science, I wanted to share some fun facts about what happens to your brain when you get pregnant and after you have a baby.

These interesting facts come from Louann Brizendine's book, The Female Brain:

  • "Progesterone spikes from ten to a hundred times its normal level during the first two to four months of pregnancy, and the brain becomes marinated in this hormone, whose sedating effects are similar to those of the drug Valium." This helps protect against the stress hormones that are also being produced in large quantities in the body. (p. 99)
  • During pregnancy, the size and structure of a woman's brain are changing too. Her brain actually shrinks. No, she is not losing brain cells. Scientists believe that this is to make room for the restructuring. Some parts of her brain get larger and others get smaller. You will be happy to note that this gradually returns to normal by 6 months after birth. (p. 100)
  • "For the human mother the lovely smells of her newborn's head, skin, poop, spit up, breast milk, and other bodily fluids that have washed over her during the first few days will become chemically imprinted on her brain and she will be able to pick out her own baby's smell above all others with about 90 percent accuracy. This goes for her baby's cry and body movements, too." (p. 102)
  • "Mother's may have better spatial memory than females who haven't given birth, and they may be more flexible, adaptive and courageous.... Female rats, for example that have had at least one litter are bolder, have less activity in the fear centers of their brains, do better on maze tests because they are better at remembering and are up to five times more efficient in catching prey. These changes last a lifetime, researchers have found, and human mothers may share them. This transformation holds true even for adoptive mothers. As long as you're in continuous physical contact with the child, your brain will release oxytocin and from the circuits needed to make and maintain the mommy brain."(p. 103)
  • Mother love looks a lot like romantic love on a brain scan.
  • Breastfeeding is better than cocaine-- In one study mother rats were given the choice between pressing a bar to get a squirt of cocaine or another to have their baby rat suck their nipples. You guessed it. Breastfeeding. It stimulates dopamine, oxytocin, and prolactin in the mother's brain. No wonder women get depressed when their babies wean.
And this fact is from How God Changes Your Brain:

  • Spiritual experiences stimulate the brain in a unique way, because they cause a person to feel elated and also peaceful. Though these are both positive feelings, neurologically they do opposite things. One is an upper, the other is a downer. The authors of the book note that it is very rare to have an experience that both arouses and also calms. (p. 75)

As far as I know, no drug can replicate that same brain activity or feeling of a spiritual experience. I don't think even orgasm does that, though some people compare ecstasy and orgasm. There is, of course, always the happy possibility that orgasm may be accompanied with a spiritual experience. But for the purpose of birth, ecstatic birth is possible for everyone, whether or not it is orgasmic, because birth is spiritual--we know that pregnancy and birth were divinely appointed. All you have to do is open yourself to His Spirit. Of course, that then means you may then have to do whatever He inspires you to do--like banishing fear, learning to surrender, reading our book when it comes out (hee hee) and whatever else, but I have found that is always worth it.


  1. "Mother's may have better spatial memory than females who haven't given birth, and they may be more flexible, adaptive and courageous....

    That is SO SO true for me. I did a lot of modern dance in college and always struggled with remembering combination. I started taking modern dance classes a few months ago-- the first time I've dances since my children were born-- and I was astounded at how much a better dancer I was. Seriously, I had so much more control over my body and was able to remember combinations EASILY... even three days later my body could remember a combination I'd only done three or four times, which NEVER happened when I was in college.

    I definitely think becoming a mother had made me smarter... in lots of ways.

  2. I've got to read that book. Adding it to my list, for sure. So awesome!

  3. I completely agree with the thought that we may become depressed once our babies start to wean. My daughter stopped breasfeeding at 11 months. Since then I have gained 15 pounds. Granted I do understand that it also has to do with the calories that I am not burning BUT I do believe that a lot of my feelings could have been diagnosed as depression. I am just starting to feel like myself again. Wow, life feels so much better when we can make sense of things.

  4. I am half way through my first pregnancy so I am in the upsessed with reading all I can about it stage. All the books that I have been reading say I should be getting less moody as time goes on. On the contrary, as I start to feel better and more like myself again, I am much more aware of how much people around me annoy me! I was just telling my husband the other day that I was less moody in the first trimester because I was too tired and sick to care. Little did I know progesterone was drugging me to protect those I love from my wrath! Now I have to constantly remind myself to be nice!



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