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Brain shrinkage during pregnancy — it’s a thing


Pregnant? Do you feel your brain is fuzzy?


Photo credit: Lane Oatey/Blue Jean Images/Getty Images

t When you become pregnant there is a glow to your skin, beautiful rosy cheeks, and a look of contentment in your eyes. The world is wonderful while a beautiful baby is growing inside of you. As you walk down the street you seem to glide like a queen, happiness is abundant, and only words of wisdom flow from your mouth. That is how we all imagine our pregnancies will be, and indeed there are some women who will have this experience, but for the rest of us pregnancy comes with big challenges.

t Most women will attest to the fact that brain fog, forgetfulness and exhaustion can be overwhelming and even debilitating. Often, trying to cope with these unexpected conditions leads to misunderstanding and added stress. For women who had prided themselves on their ability to be organized, hardworking and calm, pregnancy becomes less than glamorous.

t What your midwife or doctor may have forgotten to tell you is that your brain is actually shrinking during your pregnancy and that may account for your foggy brain and forgetfulness. New research conducted by Dr. Louanne Brizendine describes this phenomenon in her book The Female Brain: “Between six months and the end of pregnancy, MRI brain scans have shown that a pregnant woman’s brain is actually shrinking. This may be because some parts of her brain get larger as others get smaller, a state that gradually returns to normal by six months after giving birth.”

t Not since puberty have there been so many changes going on in a woman’s brain or body. The ducts in her breasts are growing and forming, her uterus is stretching, and her brain is actually shrinking. Women who were CEOs, attorneys, doctors, or designers are surprised to find that as their pregnancy progresses they feel distracted, forgetful and generally spacey. Not to worry, because within six months after the pregnancy the brain returns to its normal shape and size and scientists “believe the mother’s brain shrinks because of changes in cellular metabolism required for restructuring brain circuits, getting ready to turn some one-lane highways into superhighways.” So all you smart women may even become brighter after your brain has re-structured itself. How will the world handle all these women who become “super-smart” with newly constructed brains? I’m excited to see.

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