I'm happy to announce that my husband and I welcomed our first baby, Olivia, into the world on November 19 at 3:06 p.m. She was 7 pounds on the dot and 21 inches long. I have been in love ever since.
It's funny because people tell you how you'll feel when you hold your baby for the first time – but you really can't be prepared for it until you actually do it. It's exhilarating. Your natural instincts kick in and you instantly want to protect and love this tiny human at any cost.
My life-changing experience got me thinking. Yes, I'm still in the honeymoon phase of motherhood – but looking into my daughter's eyes, I wonder, how will I be able to do it all? How can I juggle my practice at the hospital and my responsibilities at Fox, along with my relationships with my husband, family and friends? It's all very daunting! But, luckily, Mother Nature takes mercy on stressed-out moms and helps us out.
It turns out that the brains of new moms might actually grow in the four months after they give birth. A recent study, led by Dr. Pilyoung Kim, a neuroscientist with the National Institute of Mental Health, examined pictures of new mothers’ brains two to four weeks following the birth of their newborns, and then again three to four months after. Kim found the volume of gray matter in the women’s brains significantly increased in the four month time period. That doesn’t usually happen this quickly unless there is extensive learning, brain injury, illness or major environmental change. In the case of motherhood – you’re learning new things every second.
“I think this study is really encouraging because it does show that things are going to get better, and things are remodeling to encourage and support the new role with the new baby,” said Dr. Elisa Ross, an OBGYN at the Cleveland Clinic.
The two main areas where gray matter increases are in the prefrontal cortex and the midbrain. Those parts of the brain are responsible for reasoning, planning, judgment, pleasure processing and maternal motivation. The researchers also found that moms who were extremely gushy over their babies had the most growth in the midbrain.
“It certainly does make sense that a mom should be very attracted to her own baby and want nothing more than to answer the needs of the baby because if she were to find the baby annoying or if she were able to ignore the baby, that would be very poor parenting,” Ross said. “Babies are totally dependent on us.”
So go ahead and gush on, fellow moms. You’re doing both you and your baby a service, and you're also on your way to becoming a "super mom," thanks to Mother Nature.
The findings of the study were published in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery & Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women’s health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com. Follow Dr. Coomer on Facebook and Twitter.