Your brain changes during pregnancy to groom you for the costly commitment of carrying, giving birth to, and raising a child. By the time your baby is born, you have a Maternal Care System in play that primes you to find everything about your baby alluring. After months of persistent activation of your “wanting” and “liking” neural circuitry, your brain is prepared to make you capably baby-based (Numan, 2016)!
“The same hormones that program fetal development are those that shape the maternal brain… an adaptive function for both mother and fetus” (Glynn & Sandman, 2011).
Your Maternal Care System enhances your capacity to attend to and handle threats, nudging you to protect your child against what seems dangerous, yet falls in the category of “neutral.” Interestingly, the hormones that maintain breast feeding (i.e., prolactin) also diminish your fear-for-yourself response, which allows you to boldly address threats on behalf of your child (Torner, 2016).
“Prolactin may act as a buffer to stress ” (Workman et al., 2012).
Your pregnancy and postpartum hormones definitely shape the maternal brain… to make you a competent caregiver.
Glynn, L.M. & Sandman, C.A. (2011). Prenatal origins of neurological development: A critical period for fetus and mother. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(6), 384-389.
Numan, M. (2016). Neural mechanisms of mother-infant bonding and pair bonding: Similarities, differences, and broader implications. Hormones and Behavior, 77, 98-112.
Torner, L. (2016) Actions of prolactin in the brain: From physiological adaptations to stress and neurogenesis to psychopathology. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 25(7), 1-6.
Workman, J.L., Barha, C.K., & Galea, L.A.M. (2012). Endocrine substrates of cognitive and affective changes during pregnancy and postpartum. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126(1), 54-72.
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