For decades women have claimed to experience impaired cognitive functioning during pregnancy. This experience has been so widely reported throughout the years that the term "pregnancy brain" has been coined due to this phenomenon. Although pregnant women swore of its existence, the term has always been seen as more of an old wives tale rather than a reality, that is until quite recently.
Elseline Hoekzema, a senior postdoc at Leiden University in the Netherlands and her team of colleagues, have performed various brain scans, tests, and comparisons between groups of pregnant mothers, and control groups consisting of non-pregnant women, to reveal conclusively that pregnancy is, in fact, responsible for various neural changes, including the reduction of grey matter in women.
But just what is gray matter and what is it responsible for? "Grey matter contains most of the brain's neuronal cell bodies. The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control" – source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_matter .
The reasons as to exactly why all the neural changes and gray matter reduction happens as a result of pregnancy are still unknown, even though various theories are starting to emerge that might one day lead to some concrete answers.
One theory that has gained some merit is that this change might be an occurrence that naturally takes place to equip the new mother better to take care of her child. Dr. Hoekzema stated that the general belief is that there might "be an evolutionary purpose to these changes that may serve us in some way when we become mothers."
These reductions in gray matter, as well as the other neural changes that occur as a result of pregnancy, have shown to last for at least two years post-partum. For more on this, see: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.4458.html
At least you'll still have your beautiful children to share your life with, even if it means losing a few brain cells.
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