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Science

Pregnancy Alters Woman's Brains 'For At Least Two Years' (bbc.com) 280

EzInKy writes: The BBC and others are reporting the results of a study that women's brains do in fact change during pregnancy. BBC reports: "Pregnancy reduces grey matter in specific parts of a woman's brain, helping her bond with her baby and prepare for the demands of motherhood. Scans of 25 first-time mums showed these structural brain changes lasted for at least two years after giving birth. European researchers said the scale of brain changes during pregnancy were akin to those seen during adolescence. But they found no evidence of women's memory deteriorating. This study, from researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Leiden University and published in Nature Neuroscience, looked at the brain scans of women before they became pregnant, soon after they gave birth, and two years later, to see how the brain changed. And they compared these women's brains with those of 19 first-time fathers, 17 men without children and 20 women who had never given birth. The researchers found 'substantial' reductions in the volume of grey matter in the brains of first-time mothers. The grey matter changes occurred in areas of the brain involved in social interactions used for attributing thoughts and feelings to other people -- known as 'theory-of-mind' tasks. The researchers thought this would give new mothers an advantage in various ways - help them recognize the needs of their child, be more aware of potential social threats and become more attached to their baby." Thanks Mom! As for first-time fathers, the researchers found no changes in their grey matter.
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Pregnancy Alters Woman's Brains 'For At Least Two Years'

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  • Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @05:10AM (#53520629)
    So much for the feminazis out there claiming that there is no difference between a male and female brain, and that what constitute gender is nothing but a social construct.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      A) This doesn't prove that there is a difference, because the male brain was not subjected to the same stimulus (9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, feeding the child etc.)

      B) Feminists don't claim that there is no difference between the male and female brains, just that in most cases where the differences are claimed to matter, they really don't.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      It was "so much for that" as soon as that idea started..... We already know from existing research into genetics that people of Male and Female genders have different chromosomes. Also, we can plainly observe different physical body characteristics.

      Aafter such obvious visible differences and differences over thousands of years of culture ----
      the Burden of Proof has always been on those who would claim a greater similarity or lack of difference to demonstrate that,
      AND regarding "Gender is a superficial

  • Baby brain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @05:52AM (#53520727) Homepage

    All the moms around here call it "baby brain." The memory thing that most moms (and dads) experience just has to be sleep deprivation. When I did basic training they cut us back to 5 hours of sleep a night for weeks, but that was to show us that we could still function on that little sleep. When I became a father, I was getting two sessions of about 2 to 2.5 hours of sleep per night, for months. The latter was definitely much worse and affects everything - mood, work, and relationships. The mom also has (a) many more social pressures to be the "perfect" mom - (thanks Facebook), (b) tons of weird hormone changes going on, (c) physical trauma from the birth, (d) a weird combination of stress and mind numbing boredom, and (e) whatever this "baby brain" thing is. It absolutely sucks for her (and sometimes seems to manifest as anger), so she's going to take all that shit out on someone, and as the father you're the only one that's handy, so you get to grin and bear it. Over the course of several years things do improve a lot. It never goes back to the way things were though - sometimes too many things get said, too much animosity and frustration build up. People can hold grudges for a long time.

    Nobody can really be prepared for being a parent. Even if you're told all the stuff to expect, it doesn't sink in until you're actually in the situation, and at that point there's nothing you can do but take a deep breath and do your best.

    • It absolutely sucks for her (and sometimes seems to manifest as anger), so she's going to take all that shit out on someone, and as the father you're the only one that's handy, so you get to grin and bear it.

      Although this happens a lot, I'm very reluctant to call it normal.

      If you love your partner, you don't take out your shit on him/her. When you get angry, you storm off and meditate a bit on it. There's this crazy notion that "someone has to bear the brunt of it". But well-balanced, emotionally developed adults know better.

      • "But well-balanced, emotionally developed adults know better."

        But he was talking about women...ZING
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        But well-balanced, emotionally developed adults know better.

        That's why in policing, some of the new policies include stuff like "women primarily abuse through emotional and psychological abuse" while "men primarily abuse through physical abuse." In countries which have put "emotional abuse is domestic violence" you can be sure that you're going to see an uptick in women being arrested, charged and detained. Get's more interesting when you see the crime stat survey's and start reading Gazette or Juristat and it shows that in cases of emotional abuse nearly 90% of t

      • by RobinH ( 124750 )

        "But well-balanced, emotionally developed adults know better."

        Two things - first, in our case we're both professionals and used to being good communicators under pressure, and we both *sometimes* get to the point where we say something we regret (or should regret). It's a lot of stress. Secondly, the whole point of this story is that this kind of stuff messes with you, and even messes with your brain. Having kids may make you less of an "emotionally developed adult." Knowing better is different from a

        • Re:Baby brain (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @05:10PM (#53526255) Journal

          Once again very late to this party but as a father of 2.5 year old twins who also had a major case of ulcerative colitis right when they were born I can only totally agree with you.

          I'd say the lack of sleep isn't even the major problem. You still function. However, the constant attention you pay them. Every little sound you hear. You never wind down. Your brain rests even less than your body.

          And when they scream in tandem or take shifts (and I am unable to decide which is worse!), your mental walls, your ability to restrain your emotions and function is severely tested.
          But worst of all? Children mirror you! Meaning you can't even distance yourself and go into zombie mode because that will really unhinge them and scream in a futile attempt to get their caregivers back instead of having zombies.

          It's a very vicious cycle. The only thing that saved as was honest conversation and admitting that we were in way over our heads, our fears and yes, even the regular fantasies of repeatedly throwing the kids against the nearest wall.

          Explaining raising children to childless people (and making them understand) is like explaining colors to a person born blind. It cannot be done.

          We had expected the work. It didn't faze us. We had expected the dirt, broken things and such. We were unprepared for the emotional, psychological warfare going on. Some of the shit parent sgo through is what makes Amnesty criticize Guantanamo! Only we chose this for ourselves! Can you imagine the regret?

          And the dichotomy.... Dude, the dichotomy kills you. While I would have gladly taken the opportunity a year ago to be transported back in time, before we had kids, not remember a thing but with the guarantee that we'd decide on not having them in the first place, I would have taken it in an instant. In contrast, had someone offered to just take them away so we could have our freedom back, I would have declined.

          As strange as it sounds, that is what being parents is all about. You ask yourself why you were ever stupid enough to do this thing but just stopping isn't an option either.

          One thing that has changed in a remarkable way is how I look at parents who break and do something drastic. A few months back a woman threw her kids out of a window from the tsecond or third floor. Kids survived without permanent damage.
          Before I had kids, I would have condemned the behaviour to the utmost. Now I just pity the parents. They were in a war for their sanity and lost a major battle. The moment they get a chance to reflect on it, I can only imagine the guilt and pain they must feel from the realization what they have done.

          A lot of people could do better as parents. However fuck me if it ain't the hardest job with the least possibility to prepare yourself for that I have ever encountered...

    • Re:Baby brain (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @07:45AM (#53521077)

      Reminds me of a study they did some years ago.
      When asked directly, parents would claim they derived much joy and happiness from their kids.
      But when asked those same parents indirectly, with some clever questions, the researchers found that the parents weren't nearly as happy as they claimed they were. Their kids caused them all kinds of stress and unhappiness.
      They concluded that those parents weren't necessarily lying during the questions, but that humans probably evolved a sort of delusional condition, so that they would believe kids made them happy, and so they kept procreating. Those that didn't have these delusions, obviously didn't have as much offspring, so there was a strong selection for the condition.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It makes sense that humans would evolve a way to delude themselves about kids, otherwise as their intelligence developed they would also be less included to have any, and thus less likely to pass their genes on... And now that we have subverted evolution with universal high quality education, we see in the west that birth rates are indeed falling.

        I'd say it's not just kids either. My cat is pain in the arse most of the time, but somehow I'm convinced he makes me happy

      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        I have a threenager. Terrible Twos is a lie, it's when they hit 3 that the real "fun" begins.

        Don't get me wrong, my son frustrates the shit out of me sometimes. He got a double dose of stubbornness from his parents and knows how to use it. However, he also brings the most joy to my life. I do not laugh as much with anyone else as I do with him. Most evenings, my head hurts from laughing so much. Watching him grow up, discover new things, hearing him start to use his mother's native language more fre
    • I'd never be prepared for being a parent. Nothing would change about me; there'd just be some more annoying shit around me.

      If the damned thing would wander into the street and die when it was 3 or 4 years old, that would be a great relief. Not that I wouldn't take steps to prevent it; just that if it happened--and unfortunately I'm very good at identifying and mitigating risks, so it probably wouldn't--my first sentiment would be, "Oh, good," followed by a facepalm at all the annoying bullshit everybod

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> I've simply determined to not allow that to happen.

        Thank you. If more people who would be absolutely terrible parents had your sense to self-regulate, the world would be a MUCH better place.

        • I think the problem is people take parenting as a personal thing, and so can't accept that they're wrong. If people would learn to see parenting as an engineering challenge, they'd have more success in creating better-adjusted offspring, and their offspring would be less-annoying and more-successful.

          Instead of parenting in a way which is best for society and for their children, people parent in a way which is best for their ego and self-image.

    • by kria ( 126207 )
      I know there are studies on the changes in the brains of people doing third shift work, who I imagine don't sleep nearly as well as people who get to sleep during the night, since no matter what there are noises. But yes, I began to feel much more like my old self once my daughter was down to waking just once during the night; unfortunately, that was at about a year in, and she only started sleeping through the night more than half the time at at least 18 months. I remember how I freaked out one morning:
  • My oldest's 17th birthday is today - I promise you this lasts at least 17 years. Ugh.

    I think grandkids cause their brain to just melt or something.

    By the way, for the old-timers - the 17 year old was 5 days old when we saved Hotmail.

  • Why women are worse drivers AFTER having a baby. Why women seem to complain more AFTER having a baby. Why women....(continue on as needed). for the ultra sensitive...yes, this was meant as HUMOR
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Perhaps not driving, but it actually does explain certain changes in thought processes after having kids. I've noticed that some women become hyper-protective after having kids, with an exaggerated fear of every theoretical danger. Of course, humans are not particularly good at understanding probability to begin with, so I always assumed that this perception was just confirmation bias on my part, or at most was the result of social conditioning (being around other hyper-protective people making people hy

  • It's been shown the gay men's brain activity change when they become parents, matching in some ways changes in mothers' brains, and they definitely don't go through a pregnancy.

    The researchers could have compared to brains of women who got babies via a surrogate mother, which would have been more interesting, but they chose instead to compare to groups which obviously won't have relevant changes.

    Also, they looked at scans only before and after the pregnancy, which makes this research quite useless in determ

  • "As for first-time fathers, the researchers found no changes in their grey matter."

    Because men lose grey matter on first hooking up with the woman.

  • "Ooooh, yess, YuCuddlyWubblyLiddlThing ..."

    Sound pretty brain-altered to me. :-))

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