Pregnancy is often accompanied by dramatic hormonal changes, and the effects of pregnancy on the body’s neural structure and function are not well understood by scientists.
A recent study published in Nature Communications shows that pregnancy may cause changes in the structure and function of the mother’s brain that
These changes, in turn, have been linked to maternal behavior.
Scientists studied 40 women before, during and after pregnancy, and 28 of them one year after delivery.
It was found that the functional connectivity of the “Default Mode Network” (a group of connected brain regions that are most active at rest) in these women’s brains was enhanced in relation to pregnancy, and returned to baseline levels 1 year after delivery.
These women showed a pregnancy-related increase in functional connectivity in the Default Mode Network (the most active resting brain region) and returned to baseline levels 1 year after delivery.
The researchers also found that the functional activity of the Default Network during pregnancy was associated with measures of maternal-infant attachment.
Scientists suggest that changes in the default network may contribute to maternal behaviors during pregnancy and postpartum, such as maternal-fetal attachment, nesting behavior, physiological response to infant signals, and maternal-infant attachment.
However, the current findings point to correlations and do not prove a causal relationship between brain changes and attachment.