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6 Surprising Ways Pregnancy Changes a Mother’s Brain

Pregnancy doesn’t just change a woman’s body, it also rewires her brain. Discover the mind-bending ideas and emotions a new baby can bring.

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1. The Brain Actually Shrinks

Researchers at England’s Hammersmith Hospital found that brains of healthy pregnant women shrank by up to six percent. This shrinkage might be responsible for the “fuzziness” moms-to-be complain about.

The good news: Brains recovered their prepregnancy size by the 24th week after delivery.

(Photo: White Packert/Getty)

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2. Men Become a Source of Concern

A 2010 McMaster University study found that pregnant women are likely to zero in on male faces. The theory? Threat avoidance.

Uniquely vulnerable when child-bearing (homicide is the leading cause of death of pregnant and postpartum women in the United States), females have evolved to be particularly vigilant towards men.

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3. Multitasking Becomes Easier

Pregnancy supercharges the prefrontal cortex, the part that allows humans to multi-task.

(Photo: StockLib/istockphoto)

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4. Emotions are Amplified

Oxytocin, the hormone women release during labour and breastfeeding, makes women calmer and more trusting.

Interestingly, it also amps up aggression towards perceived threats.

(Photo: Steex/Istockphoto)

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5. Intelligence Can Increase

A 2010 Yale study found that mothers who expressed the greatest amount of positive emotion towards their babies (rating them as “perfect” or “beautiful”) set off structural changes in their brain, boosting its information-processing capacity.

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6. Foreign Faces Cause Tension

The first trimester is not a good time to travel-women are more likely to grow tense around foreign faces.

This effect may be linked to the fact that the body is immunosuppressed during those early months, and “outsiders” might harbour germs that endanger the fetus.

(Photo: anneleven/Istockphoto)