Today’s podcast is all about the maternal brain and the neuroscience of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting.
A few months back I shared an article about the maternal brain on my Facebook page and it went a bit nuts. It’s since been shared over 40 times which is unprecedented for my Facebook page. It also received tons of comments, many of which were saying how the article helped them to better understand what they were going through. So I knew I had to cover this topic on the podcast.
I reached out to the expert that was quoted in the article, Jodi Pawluski, and was thrilled when she agreed to come on the podcast to talk about all things maternal brain.
Jodi Pawluski is a perinatal mental health expert and Research Associate at the University of Rennes in France. Her research aims to promote maternal mental health: enhancing the health and well-being of both the mother and child. Her research focus is to determine the behavioral and neurobiological processes underlying maternal mental illness and use this information to improve mental health in women during the perinatal period. In other words, she knows a thing or two about the maternal brain!
The Maternal Brain
During our conversation, Jodi talks about
- the changes that are happening to our brain during pregnancy and how it’s an important evolution for becoming a new parent
- how we have new brain circuitry coming online that provides us with the ability to tune into our infant by enabling us to experience a feeling of reward from our child and a feeling of attachment
- changes to the mood and emotions during pregnancy
- the role of the environment on the maternal brain aka “pregnancy brain”
- how quickly a mother can tune into her infant
After half an hour of touching your baby’s hand, you will recognise your baby’s hand from touch alone.
We talk about whether this is a “thing”. Some articles have stated that it’s not a thing, so we talk about what it could be instead and why it might feel that it really IS a thing.
15% of women during pregnancy will have a high level of anxiety
We touch on the important topic of anxiety and depression during pregnancy and taking medication when pregnant.
And, we also cover the brain changes happening to dads…. there is so much in this conversation!
The Neurobiology of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression.
The adaptive human parental brain: implications for children’s social development.
The Neglected Neurobiology of Maternal Anxiety and Depression
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 51:38 — 46.8MB) | Embed
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- How partners can support women during pregnancy & birth, with Souvereign - 22nd August 2022
- Scared of birth? Fear is not the only problem. - 1st December 2021
- How to clear your fears yourself - 28th May 2021
Thanks so much for sharing this important research that underpins what mothers have felt to be true for centuries. It is useful to reframe the conventional idea of ‘mummy brain’ as being a super power that women gain in improved intuition and care giving ability.
I think there should have been greater caution and caveats given to the role of breastfeeding in bonding however as it was at times dismissive of the importance. The changing biofluid and composition of human breastmilk optimally supports human development, particularly brain development and this is particularly true when the baby is breastfed directly as the antibody transfer and microbiome of the milk itself is optimum. In addition a child’s own microbiome is supported, and thus neurodevelopment influenced at key points by the presence of human milk oligosacharides which cannot be replicated by a processed baby food or milk. Compounds specific to contemporaneous human milk such as alpha lactalbumin for example work like opiods to reduce pain, while hormones such as melatonin are produced at certain times of day to support the infant’s circadian rhythm and promote sleep. Professor Rob Knight’s work on the changing microbiome in the early years as influenced by human milk in addition to complimentary foods is informing biological norms.
I think while the focus of this podcast is on the parental brain, lip service should be paid to how responsively breastfeeding can strenghen parental-child bonding, secure attachment and optimum overall health to the WHO minimum of 2 years and beyond. There are of course a plethora of ways the non breastfeeding partner can connect with and care for their child but I think the assertion at the end of the podcast that they can ‘also give a bottle’ is dismissive of the special relationship and health considerations of the child and breastfeeding mother.
Thank you foe your work on this important subject.