Memory lapses, building the maternal bond… What happens in mothers’ brains during… – 20 minutes

Memory lapses, building the maternal bond… What happens in mothers’ brains during… – 20 minutes

The mystery of life. For nine months, the body pregnant woman it goes through many changes as it “produces” the unborn child. Her belly is growing, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thus, the brain of future mothers is also subject to many modifications throughout pregnancy, which prepare them for the new role that awaits them.

In their work In the minds of mothers (ed. du Rocher), Dr Hugo Bottemanne, psychiatrist, head of clinic at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and neuroscience researcher at the Institut du Cerveau (ICM) and Dr. Lucie Joly, psychiatrist, head of adult perinatal psychiatry at the Saint-Antoine, Pitié-Salpêtrière, Tenon and Trousseau hospitals in Paris, to decipher the secrets of perinatal neuroscience and reveal some secrets 20 minutes. Why are pregnant women sometimes a little over the moon? How is the bond between mother and child formed from the beginning of pregnancy?

“Mommy Brain”

Having a floating mind, memory lapses, being a little dizzy are all traits that can be seen in many pregnant women. “What is called ‘mommy brain’ or ‘amnesia’ refers to these cognitive impairments, memory impairments or inattentiveness that a person may have during pregnancy, explains Dr. Lucie Joly. During these nine months, the architecture of the brain changes: this is perinatal neuroplasticity. Studies have observed a reduction in brain size of 5 to 10%. Of course, this does not mean that a woman is less intelligent! Her brain acquires special features to prepare her for the arrival of the baby and respond better to her needs.

Mother’s brain, which would affect about four out of five women and which could be caused by a decrease in blood supply to the brain associated with a decrease in its oxygenation and its activity. The energy redistributed to the fetus by its mother’s body describes in detail the work of two psychiatrists. “But without causing the slightest brain consequences,” reassures Dr. Jolyová.

Another effect of this mommy brain: a the zenith almost infallibly often observed. “It’s a progressive mechanism that reaches its peak in the third trimester, where we actually observe this somewhat surprising maternal calmness, like the feeling of being on a cloud, in a bubble,” describes Dr Hugo Bottemane. The relation to negative things is quite distant”.

Interoception and the construction of the maternal bond

If there’s one moment moms-to-be look forward to, it’s when they feel their baby for the first time. And which makes like little bubbles that fizz in their bellies. First moves in utero collected between the end of the third and fifth month before child to be born grows bigger and kicks straight. During this time, the mother’s body adapts to this life that is growing inside her and evokes feelings that are already involved in building the maternal bond, creating the love she has for her child, who has not yet seen the light of day. day.

“We wanted to bring the concept of interoception – all the sensations we have about our body, how the insides are located… – into perinatal care. This brings a new perspective on the role of the perception of fetal movements in the formation of the maternal bond,” explains Dr. Joly, who is currently conducting a study on this topic with his colleague. “We wanted to study the weaving of this maternal love from the point of view of psychology and communication between the body and the brain,” adds Dr. Bottemane. Perinatal interoception, which “can be worked with using certain tools like haptonomy to work on prenatal bonding and promote attachment to the baby,” continues Dr. Jolly.

But this perinatal interoception can sometimes play funny tricks with mothers’ brains and cause phantom baby syndrome. “It’s the fact that after birth we feel the movements of the baby that is no longer in the belly,” says Dr. Jolly. This is explained by interoception: the body retains the memory of the passage of the baby, and in this connection the sensory cortex can be disturbed and create the illusion of the movement of the fetus, but without the baby”. The phenomenon “similar to that phantom member, but very little described. In our study of 4,000 participants, 40% of women surveyed reported feeling phantom fetal movements, notes Dr. Bottemann. It remains to be seen whether, at the brain level, in women who continue to experience these sensations, it is the same brain regions that are activated when perceiving movements during pregnancy.

Activating the “wake mode” of mothers

And when the baby is born, have you ever noticed how the mother is especially sensitive crying baby ? “All the brain modifications during pregnancy, especially at the level of the reward circuit, are supposed to prepare the mother to be more alert to these signals,” confirms Dr. Jolly. “After birth, studies have shown that activity in this reward circuit increases when mothers see their babies smile or hear them cry,” the two psychiatrists explain.

But “the building of this bond and this maternal sensitivity is progressive: the mother will first become more sensitive to the babies’ cries, then she will gradually and specifically focus on the signals that the baby gives off,” notes Dr. Joly and Botteman. But that vigilance, “the other parent—or adoptive parents—can work on it, too,” assures Dr. Bottemane. It’s a learning sheet’.

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