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Pregnancy Brain

  • Pregnancy Brain 1 of 10

    1: You can smell everything a mile away

    You can smell everything a mile away As soon as you get pregnant, the smell centers of your brain become extra active. Your increased olfactory sensitivity (and resultant food aversions and nausea) is thought to be nature's way of protecting you from possibly harmful or diseased foods and environments while pregnant. If you find that everything is grossing you out, try taking mints or lemon drops and crack open a window.

  • Pregnancy Brain 2 of 10

    2: You become protective, even xenophobic

    You become protective, even xenophobic A 2007 study cited in Origins: How The Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives suggests that women in early pregnancy — when the fetus is most vulnerable — react with more hostility to anti-American sentiments expressed by foreigners than women further along in pregnancy. Another study cited in Origins showed that pregnant women are more likely than non-pregnant women to react unfavorably to images of sickly, unhealthy people. Experts think this may be an evolutionary response to the threat of illness as outsiders are more likely to introduce new diseases or infections.

  • Pregnancy Brain 3 of 10

    3: You become small-brained

    You become small-brained Some women find that they are very forgetful around the time of birth, especially when it comes to things unrelated to their immediate concerns (ie: the baby). But don’t stress — though a mother’s brain does temporarily shrink toward the end of pregnancy, it returns to its former size postpartum, and the activity in the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus and amygdala — areas responsible for reasoning, planning and bonding — actually increases.

  • Pregnancy Brain 4 of 10

    4: You feel the need to nurture

    You feel the need to nurture A new mother’s brain is marinating in oxytocin, which is sometimes called the cuddle hormone as it’s so vital to how women make and maintain social bonds. Oxytocin is released during labor, breastfeeding and orgasm, as well as during massage, in the dark and when you feel safe. Oxytocin can even be triggered from inhaling pheromones released from your baby’s head. (And dads experience this too!). Thanks to this hormone increase, mothers are very alert and responsive to their baby’s needs. Some new moms find their empathy increases to the point where just watching the news can be very emotional.

  • Pregnancy Brain 5 of 10

    5: You become a master multi-tasker

    You become a master multi-tasker Research shows that a woman’s memory and learning skills improve when she becomes a new mother, which increases multitasking abilities. “Popular wisdom, grounded in evolutionary theory, dictates that women, particularly mothers, excel when it comes to splitting their focus,” writes Katherine Ellison in Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. Experts believe that new moms are hard-wired to process a lot of stimulation and to prioritize quickly so that they can care for infants even under stressful circumstances.

  • Pregnancy Brain 6 of 10

    6: You go into survival mode

    You go into survival mode Animal experiments have suggested that new mothers become less anxious in the face of difficult tasks, especially ones related to survival. In one particular study, mother rats were better and faster at catching prey than virgin rats. Catching prey aside, similar traits have also been observed in caretakers of babies suggesting that parenthood, not just giving birth, has an emboldening effect.

  • Pregnancy Brain 7 of 10

    7: You become tranquil

    You become tranquil An increase in progesterone and estrogen during pregnancy can have a very strong sedating effect. This helps buffer stress hormones, which actually go up in pregnancy as well. This chill effect can continue postpartum if you breastfeed — the hormone prolactin often makes mothers feel sedated and a little out of it (which can help them get back to sleep after waking up during the night to feed). In fact, some mothers feel “addicted” to breastfeeding as the hormones help reduce stress.

  • Pregnancy Brain 8 of 10

    8: You become bone tired

    You become bone tired This feeling of exhaustion is actually your brain on sleep deprivation, a state not uncommon among mothers. One study showed that new mothers lose up to 700 hours of sleep during the first year. When you’re truly sleep-deprived, you have decreased energy, memory, joy, optimism, control of language and ability to problem solve; you may also experience depression, anger and sadness. It’s important to try and find ways to make up for lost sleep; asking for help can make all the difference between feeling tired and being sleep-deprived.

  • Pregnancy Brain 9 of 10

    9: You become forever changed

    You become forever changed The changes your body goes through during pregnancy don’t end at month nine — research suggests the changes a mother’s brain goes through are powerful and permanent. In fact, sometimes the first three months postpartum are referred to as “the fourth trimester.” “[Parenthood] is an epoch of learning and brain-induced changes, because everything matters so much,” says Michael Merzenich, a pioneering brain expert quoted in the Mommy Brain.

  • Pregnancy Brain 10 of 10
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