I read a few headlines this morning about how pop singer Pink is finding herself suddenly very moody in pregnancy. Apparently she got into an altercation with some guy at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
I can easily imagine getting into a altercation at Bed Bath and Beyond over Thanksgiving weekend, pregnant or not. But pregnancy can make women extra sensitive to social dynamics and annoying crowds.
We don’t really need brain science to tell us this, but if you’re looking for validation or vindication for your own foul temper at the mall, the story of your body chemistry may just provide it.
For your pleasure, I’ve attempted a neurochemical breakdown of precisely why Pink might have been so moody at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Here goes:
Progesterone goes from ten to hundred times it’s previous levels within the first few months of pregnancy. This hormone is almost like valium, it’s so sedating. Brain chemistry also changes to make women much hungrier and thirstier. At around four months– near where our friend Pink is–appetite and thirst tend to go way up. Pink’s blood volume is increasing daily. She needs lots of water. And she is hungry, but for very particular foods– hormones increase sensitivity to smell, making women feel completely revolted by certain things: greasy foods, human odors, meat. So while the appetite goes up, it’s also finicky.
The bottom line: Pink’s body doesn’t want to be far from a nap, specific foods, lots of water and a bathroom (with no line). Heading out into the throngs of holiday shoppers is typically not accommodating to these neurochemical circumstances.
Women in early pregnancy are not just sensitive to foods and smells, they are sensitive strangers as well. Studies have shown that women tend to be more xenophobic during the first trimester– the fear of outsiders is probably an evolutionary mechanism for keeping new illnesses from being introduced at a vulnerable period of fetal development. Have pregnant women wanted to shut out the world and nap for the first half of pregnancy? Well, yeah.
Stress hormones such as cortisol also increase over pregnancy. The effects of these hormones are buffered by masses of estrogen, but they’re there. And they’re useful. They help make a mother more aware, more vigilant. Recognize that anyone? Nesting is such a lovely word, but a fiercely nesting mother is not someone you want to mess with. She’s become protective and perhaps, as a result, less accommodating to, say, jerks at Bed, Bath and Beyond. By the end of pregnancy, women can be forgetful about logistics or some other things they need to get done. It’s not because the hormones are making them less focused, but rather that they are making women intensely focused. It’s just a focus on something else.
In all, motherhood does increase brain activity; mommy brain is not the curse we sometimes imagine it is. But it is markedly different from the female brain before pregnancy and after pregnancy. And those hormones can make a woman a bit more particular. A bit more vigilant. And really, tired, thirsty and hungry. So get out of her way and let the woman nap.
photo: Solarpix / PR Photos