Tag Archives: Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy Brain Is A Real Thing*

This is her brain. This is her brain on pregnancy.

When we were pregnant (and, if you’ve read that nearly-a-bestselling-book A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook, you’ll know it’s a two-person event, pregnancy), we liked to refer to it as PIS, or pregnancy-induced senility.

That way, she could say she PISed off and we could laugh when she locked her keys inside the car in line at the car wash and I had to leave work to come rescue her because she was crying and upset. It was that or start screaming my own self and that would have been a bad idea.

Hell might have no fury like a woman scorned, but even they run in fear of pregnant women. And it’s not simply because of the wacky hormones running amok in their bloodstream. But that is a post for another day.A woman's brain really does change during pregnancy, but I'm pretty sure that would be a bad thing to mention to an actual pregnant woman. Because pregnancy also does wacky things to their emotional lability.

What my wife, known to me as She Who Must, While Pregnant, Be Getting What She Wants So That I Might Be Allowed To Continue My Miserable Existence, and I called PIS also is known as pregnancy brain. There are those who say it is a myth.

They are, according to science, very much wrong. Pregnancy brain is real. However, it’s more than merely pregnant women forgetting stuff.

“Pregnancy brain” definitely exists, but it may not be as negative as you think. In fact, it can make you more perceptive of other people’s emotions, according to new research presented at British Psychological Society Annual Conference in the U.K. 

Pregnant women were more sensitive to facial emotion in all of the pictures, which could mean that the right hemisphere of their brains (the one usually responsible for recognizing visual emotion) was more active in them than in new moms, meaning they could process emotion from all angles. This might be the body’s way of preparing a soon-to-be mom to be more responsive to a baby once it’s born.

But, I hear you calling**, dude! That has nothing to do with putting a box of cereal away in the fridge. True, but this does.

One meta-analysis of 14 studies in 2007 found some evidence of memory impairments in pregnant women, though the findings weren’t totally consistent. Another 2010 study says that hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your memory of spatial locations, but the research only looked at less than 50 women. 

All of which goes to show that, while pregnancy does make some demonstrable physical changes to a woman’s brain, we can’t say with certainty that it’s what causes her to forget stuff, to lose stuff, to become absent minded, to get mixed up with simple directions or any of that stuff.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say, even with conclusive scientific evidence to back you up, it’s probably a good idea to not mention any of the negative stuff that might have something to do with pregnancy brain.

If you’re not able to simply turn and run (which, oddly, seems to be my most frequently offered bit of advice for dudes dealing with pregnant women), I think your best bet would be to say that, yes, pregnancy does change a woman’s brain.

But it’s for the good. Pregnant brains are actually changing so moms-to-be can better bond with the little dude or little dudette.

Then turn and run.

Footnotes & Errata

* But don’t think that gets you off the hook for even considering the possibility of maybe mentioning it. Sort of like saying the word menopause when talking to ladies of a certain age. Not a good idea.

** But I’d better not hear you call me Beth. (Wow, that was an obscure and very old joke.)

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Freaky Friday: Milkin’ It For All It’s Worth

by Richard

In the words of the immortal Jake Blues in the tunnel scene: “It wasn’t my fault!” In this case, I’m not begging forgiveness, I’m relieved that I wasn’t imagining things. I really couldn’t help it that I full-on panic mode when my wife, known to me as She Who Must Never See Me Smile When She’s Near A Scale, was pregnant with the little dudes.

I blame my body.

Seriously, this actually does make sense. According to a new study, man actually do go through real, physical changes as they get ready to become fathers.

Although men may not be aware of it, they actually undergo hormonal changes as they prepare for fatherhood, says neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, author of The Male Brain (Broadway Books, $24.99), released in March.

At first, those hormones tell them to panic, or at least pay attention.

Levels of a stress hormone called cortisol — the same ancient chemical that instructs men to fight or take flight — tend to spike about four to six weeks after men learn they’re going to be fathers, subsiding as the mother’s pregnancy progresses, Brizendine says.

“It is a cortisol surge that wakes our brains up every morning,” Brizendine says. “So this surge may put the father-to-be’s brain on alert and in a sense wake him up to the impending reality of a new baby’s coming, and alert him that he’d better get things ready.”

And let me tell you, panic is something I found out a lot about as the months progressed. I used to wake up drenched in sweat, gasping for breath, my heart hammering a mile a minute. I’d jump up out of bed. I wouldn’t calm down until I got to the fridge and made sure that, yep, we still had some beer cooling down. So that was all right.

Oh, FSM! We’re going to have a baby!

Sorry, bad flashback there.

Not only do men start to undergo emotional changes, there are actual physical changes to our brains — OUR BRAINS — that accompany our trek into fatherhood.

Tests show that men actually get better at hearing a baby’s cry — zeroing in on the sound and responding to it — as the due date of their own child approaches.

And here’s where it starts to get extremely freaky. About three weeks before the baby arrives, the level of testosterone (the aggression hormone) in men’s bodies starts to drop. Which, you know, I can understand. Back in the cave days you wouldn’t want a mean, mad dad hovering over the little cavedude with a club in hand. The stranger thing is that we start generating much higher levels of prolactin. That’s the hormone that makes a woman’s breasts begin to secrete milk.

That’s right. We start pumping out the hormone. Lucky us, that’s the only thing we start pumping out.

“We still don’t know what prolactin is doing in dads,” Brizendine says.

Male hormone levels begin to readjust back to normal about six weeks after the little dudette or little dude arrives, so that’s good. Of course, it still doesn’t explain why I packed on the baby weight and still haven’t been able to work it off. Now, I’m not saying the hormones actually are making me keep the weight, but I am going to blame them.

Isn’t science wonderful?

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