If you've ever blamed a forgetful moment on "mommy brain," we have news for you: Not only have scientists proven it's a real thing, it might actually be quite healthy for you and your baby.
Pregnancy may result in long-lasting changes in a woman's brain, according to a new study of a small group of subjects published by the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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Researchers examined the brains of 25 first-time mothers before and after their pregnancy and found that, after becoming moms, there was a decrease in gray matter in specific regions of the brain that are associated with integrating sensory information and abstract thinking. The researchers followed up with 11 of the mothers two years after they gave birth, and still observed these changes in their brains.
What's even crazier: Changes to new mothers' brains were so common that the scientists were able to recognize which participants recently gave birth around 85 percent of the time by just looking at their brain scans.
"The theory here is that those changes occurred to help streamline the moms’ brains to prepare for more nurturing, vigilance and teaching," said Dr. Jen Ashton, ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent.
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The authors of the study speculated that the gray matter changes may be what helps a mother facilitate attachment to their baby--though they didn't measure the effects of the changes in terms of cognitive performance or intellectual sharpness, so real-world outcomes are hard to directly link. (In other words, don't go blaming mommy brain for your lost keys just yet!)
Perhaps most interestingly, the study found no difference in the brains of males who became fathers.
“No difference in the male brain, not even a little bit," Dr. Ashton said. "I’d like to see the study done in adoptive moms too."
So would we!