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Friday, January 31, 2014

Childhood Asthma Link To Rapid Growth In First Months

This article has moved
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more articles and information on pregnancy over 40 
 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Keep Pregnancy A Secret The First Trimester

Pregnancy Over 40 - Keeping It Secret

I recall being in this dilemma. I was so happy to be pregnant after years of infertility and miscarriage.
See also www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy over 40
Then, when you're definitely pregnant, you don't want to tell anyone because of the risk of miscarriage. It's hard to go through that when everyone knows about the pregnancy - so you keep it a secret. This article deals with this dilemma:

From the article:

Many women like to refrain from going public about their pregnancy until the three-month mark, when the risk of miscarriage is said to significantly reduce and they've had that reassuring first scan, which (hopefully) not only shows them that the baby's ok, but which gives irrefutable evidence that there is, indeed a baby in there, and they're not just imagining it/going crazy/getting fat!

You might choose not to tell family and friends until this point because you don't want them to get too excited until you get this first all-clear.

And you may decide not to tell your work colleagues if you have worries about how you'll be treated once people know that you're pregnant, or even about the safety of your job.

Or perhaps you just don't want people to know yet, because it's a lovely experience for you and your partner to share alone, even just for a little while.

Three whole months of having your own lovely secret, without those well-meaning relatives telling you what you should and shouldn't be eating, drinking, doing or thinking... Bliss!
Hmm, is that woman pregnant or just fat?

Symptoms in the first three months

But then Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom; (and demonstrating a cracking sense of humour); ensures that if you're going to have pregnancy symptoms, then the ones which are most obvious and difficult to hide (except perhaps for the baby bump itself), will occur during those first three, special months.

from 
moondaisy.hubpages.com

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Backpain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy Over 40 and Back Pain

Interestingly enough, the one time I did not have back pain (or rarely had it) was during pregnancy. I'm not sure why, but it was nice while it lasted. 
Also visit: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on getting pregnant over 40 
 I believe my back pain was cyclical and was influenced by monthly hormones...so during pregnancy, I did not have that fluctuation of hormones.However, many women complain of back pain throughout their pregnancy. Here is a site which gives some simple exercises which can help:

Tailor Sit

This exercise makes your thigh, pelvic, and hip muscles more flexible.
  1. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together. Your back should be straight.
  2. Gently lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in the hip and thigh muscles. Your back should remain straight. Don’t push down on your legs with your hands.
  3. Hold and count to 5, then relax.

Trunk Turns

This helps make your trunk (from your shoulders to your hips) more flexible.
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Your back should be straight.
  2. Put your left hand on your right knee. Rest your right hand on the floor to support yourself and help you balance.
  3. Slowly twist right. To do this, turn your head, shoulders, and chest as far right as you comfortably can. Keep your hips, knees, and feet in place.

from: (www.marshfieldclinic.kramesonline.com)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Over 40 Pregnancy: You Are Not Too Old

Pregnancy Over 40 and Motherhood Over 40, You're Not Too Old

It seems everyone has an opinion about whether or not women are too old to have a baby.  People talk about being over 40, over 50 and so on. 
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more encouragment on getting pregnant and having a baby over 40 
 Many women over 40 get pregnant by surprise, and some go through IVF or other fertility treatments.  Either way, age has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to parent and it will probably make you a better mother.  People always seem to use age as a reason why "you won't be around to see your children grow up".  However, statistically speaking, women who have their first child over the age of 40 are four times more likely to live to be 100!  I guess that argument doesn't hold up.  Read more about older motherhood and its challenges:

Breaking the Age Barrier

"What is immediately apparent," says Duxbury, "is that most of us didn't choose to be older parents. We didn't sit down at 20 and say, 'Oh, I guess I'll have a baby when I am 40.' Life led us down that road." Many older parents come to parenthood with a legacy of loss; they've had miscarriages and stillbirths and other disappointments, she says. They may not have found love until late in life. "As older moms, we never take parenting for granted," says Duxbury. "We look at our children as blessings that arrived after long and often arduous journeys."

from: webmd

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pregnancy Nutrition - What To Eat When Pregnant

Pregnancy Over 40, What To Eat In Pregnancy

Here is a great resource list for nutrition during pregnancy.
Be sure to also visit:  www.getpregnantover40.com to see my series of articles on foods for fertility and pregnancy
The excerpts from the fda.gov website give some good suggestions on what to eat during pregnancy and some dangers to avoid. Some foods like fish can have toxins like mercury and pregnant women should also be very careful about foodborne micro-organisms.  Folic acid is also a must.  Read more:

"Why should I take folic acid before I become pregnant?"Taking folic acid before you're pregnant is essential in reducing the risk of birth defects. It's important to absorb folic acid in your blood so that when you do become pregnant, your baby will have a healthy start. Since neural tube defects develop 18 to 30 days after conception - often before you even know you're pregnant - taking folic acid is important both before conception and throughout your pregnancy.

"How can I get folic acid in my diet?"You can get adequate levels of folic acid by eating the following foods:
  • Leafy, dark green vegetables
  • Legumes (dried beans and peas)
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Most berries
  • Whole grains
  • Breakfast cereals
Methylmercury Matters Before Pregnancy
Seafood can be an important part of a balanced diet. It's a good source of high-quality protein and other nutrients and it's low in fat. However, some fish contain high levels of methylmercury, which can harm an unborn child's developing nervous system - even before conception

So if you're thinking about becoming pregnant, you should be aware of these risks and take steps to prevent exposure to methylmercury. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about methylmercury.
Methylmercury can build up in a woman's body before she becomes pregnant.
"What is methylmercury?"It's a metal that can be found in certain fish, including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. Eating these fish can be harmful to your unborn baby.

___________________

How serious can foodborne illness be for me?"
Foodborne illness during pregnancy can cause serious health problems, miscarriage, premature delivery, or even death of the mother. Different microorganisms or chemical contaminants can affect the mother and fetus or newborn in a variety of ways.

For example, sometimes foodborne illness can make the mother sick, leaving her exhausted and dehydrated. Other times the symptoms are absent or so mild that the mother doesn't even know that she's been infected, but she's still passing the infection to her unborn child - who may then experience serious effects from the illness.


"How can foodborne illness affect my baby?"
Harmful foodborne microorganisms or some metals in food can cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus. As a result, the infected fetus or newborn can experience a wide range of health problems - or even death. But, read on... this Web site shows you how to protect your baby.
(fda.gov)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Woman, 70, Gives Birth

Pregnancy Over 40...Pregnancy Over 70?

You may have already heard this story, it was in the news a while ago. Yes, this Indian woman did go through fertility treatments, but it just goes to show you that having a baby over 40 is no big deal.
See:   www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy at older ages
The female body is capable of amazing things.

From the article:

We longed for a child all these years and now we are very happy to have one in the twilight years of our life," she said, according to the Telegraph.
The newspaper quoted Dr. Anurag Bishnoi of the Hisar fertility center in Haryana state as saying that Devi and her 72-year-old husband, Bala Ram, came to the facility for treatment.
"Both the mother and child are in good health," Bishnoi said.
The doctor did not disclose whose egg or sperm was used in the procedure.
The Telegraph said Devi and her husband had been married 50 years. After 10 years of childless marriage, he wed his wife's sister, but there were no children from that union, it said.
The new father said he wasn't worried about what would happen to the baby if he and his wife died before she grows up.
"The upbringing of the child is not a problem. We have a joint family as is common in rural Haryana," he said.
Previously, the world's oldest mother was believed to be a Spanish woman. Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara gave birth to twins in December 2006, days before her 67th birthday. 

from 
 (telegraph.co.uk)


Friday, January 24, 2014

Alcohol In Pregnancy - No Level Is Safe

Alcohol In Any Amount Is Not Safe In Pregnancy

Most women know that drinking in pregnancy is a bad idea, but many wonder how much is really a problem.  They think, "could one glass on wine really hurt?"
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy, fertility, and prevention of complications
 According to this article, there is no "safe" amount to drink in pregnancy. Read more:

From the article:

The results showed that:

Higher prenatal alcohol exposure in every alcohol consumption pattern was significantly linked to an increased risk of the baby being born with reduced birth weight or length, having a smooth philtrum, thin vermillion border or microcephaly.

The most significant links were during the second half of the first trimester.

During this period of gestation, for every increase of one alcoholic drink in the average daily consumption, there was a 25% increase in risk for smooth philtrum, 22% increase in risk for thin vermillion border, 12% for microcephaly, 16% for reduced birth weight, and 18% for reduced birth length.

The authors note that the links "were linear, and there was no evidence of a threshold."

"Women should continue to be advised to abstain from alcohol consumption from conception throughout pregnancy," they add.

from: 
www.medicalnewstoday.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Single Mothers By Choice - Choosing To Be A Single Mom

Pregnancy Over 40, Single Motherhood

It seems that I meet more and more women who have never married but have families. Most of these women are in their late 30's and 40's, but never found "Mr. Right". Their desire to become a mother was so strong but they couldn't wait for the right man to come along. Many of these women use sperm donors with inseminations or they adopt.
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy and fertility over 40
I have known quite a few single women who have adopted - especially from foreign countries. I've also known quite a few who were older and assumed they couldn't get pregnant, but they did! They became single mothers and wouldn't trade it for the world. This video is about women who, mostly through insemination with sperm donors, became single mothers.

Single Mothers By Choice (www.msnbc.msn.com)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Blood test screens for Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Screening

Many women over 40 want their pregnancy to be screened for Down Syndrome but they're afraid because there is a slight risk of miscarriage with the procedure.
See: getpregnantover40.com for more articles on having a healthy pregnancy over 40 
 The article below talks about a new blood test which can also screen for Down Syndrome but does not have the miscarriage risk of an amnocentisis. Read more:

A child with Down's inherits an extra copy of chromosome 21 from their mother or father. Now two research teams have devised a simple blood test – that they say carries no risk of miscarriage – to detect this extra copy by analysing fetal genetic material shed into a mother's blood.

Though the findings are still preliminary, Dennis Lo of the Chinese University in Hong Kong, who first proposed fetal DNA testing in 1997, is optimistic that far fewer women will need invasive tests for Down's. "This problem really appears to be solvable," he says.

Geographical limits
Lo's method, developed in 2007, is now being commercialised by Sequenom of San Diego, California.

The approach focuses on a stretch of chromosome 21 that is only expressed in fetuses. Sequenom detects this RNA and determines which parent it comes from by identifying differences between the individuals in single-letter variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

from: 
(www.newscientist.com)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Is Maternal Mortality Increasing?

Maternal Mortality:  Reasons why

I was surprised when I read the following article which discusses an increase in the maternal mortality rate.
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy complications and pregnancy over 40
 It seems like we live in such a "medically advanced" society that we should be seeing a decrease. According to the article, the increase may be attributed to everything from more c-sections, quality of care, and obesity. Read more:

Reasons for Increase
A rise in the number of caesarean sections -- which now account for 29% of all births -- could be a factor in the increased maternal mortality rate, some experts said. According to a review of maternal deaths in New York, excessive bleeding is one of the primary causes of pregnancy-related death, and women who have undergone several previous c-sections are at particularly high risk of death.

Some studies have found that race and quality of care also factor into the maternal mortality rate. The maternal mortality rate among black women is at least three times higher than among white women. Black women also are more susceptible to hypertension and other complications, and they tend to receive inadequate prenatal care. Three studies have shown that at least 40% of maternal deaths could have been prevented with improved quality of care.

The rise in obesity also might be a factor, some experts said. According to researchers, overweight women tend to have diabetes or experience other complications that could affect pregnancy outcomes. Overweight women also might have excessive tissue or larger infants, which could make a vaginal birth more difficult and lead to more c-sections. More women also are giving birth in their late 30s and 40s, when risks of pregnancy complications are higher, according to the AP/Post (AP/Washington Post, 8/24).

from
 (www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Light Exercise Good To Keep Baby's Weight In Check

Exercise in Pregnancy

I was very afraid of doing any kind of exercise in pregnancy.  Since I had experienced so many miscarriages and because I had heard that heavy exercise in the early weeks of pregnancy could cause a miscarriage, I pretty much stayed immobile. 
See also www.getpregnantover40.com for more on getting and staying pregnant over 40
I'm not a fan of running marathons when pregnant, but some light exercise is healthy. Some movement in pregnancy can help keep your baby from gaining too much weight. Read more:

From the article:

On average, the exercising women had babies who were no shorter than their non-exercising counterparts, but who were 0.32 lb (143 grams) lighter on average.

This suggested that the regime did not stunt growth in the womb, but reduced the amount of extra fat laid down by the babies.

In addition, the exercise did not appear to interfere with the natural changes in the mother's response to the hormone insulin, a necessary mechanism in pregnancy to make sure the foetus is properly nourished. 

from 
news.bbc.co.uk

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Men: Watch Out For Paint If You're TTC

Paint and Male Factor Infertility

Sperm are very sensitive creatures, especially when exposed to environmental toxins.  I think most women know to watch out for substances like paint which may contain solvents.
See: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on environmental causes of infertility
However, I don't think most men know this applies to them too (especially men who paint for a living). Read More:

"A new study suggests that hubby might want to think carefully about when to paint the spare room in preparation for that new addition to the family. Research from the University of Alberta, Canada, shows that the babies of men who paint for a living are at a high risk of low birth weight and birth defects.

The study assessed male construction workers from the Netherlands who had been exposed to concentrations of airborne organic solvents 3 months prior to their partners falling pregnant. All up, 398 painters regularly exposed to a chemical cocktail of paints, thinners and cleansers; and 302 carpenters with next to no exposure, were assessed.

Worryingly, the researchers discovered that males working as painters were six times more likely than the carpenters to have children born with serious birth defects. Equally disturbing was the finding that this group also had a 50 to 100 percent chance of producing low-weight babies"


from aphroditewomenshealth.com

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cause Of Pre-eclampsia May Be Related To Placenta Development

Pre-eclampsia, Toxemia

We hear so much about pre-eclampsia which can be life threatening to the mother and baby.
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for information on having a healthy pregnancy over 40 
Here is some research which may have pinpointed why pre-eclampsia occurs in the first place. It appears that the mother's blood pressure rises in response to an abnormal development in the vessels of the placenta. Read more:

In most pregnancies development of the blood supply to the placenta (vascularisation) is completed at around 20 weeks into the pregnancy. However if this fails to develop normally, the growing placenta starts to pump out a hormone called neurokinin B. This hormone seems to be inactive in the foetus, but a team led by Professor Phil Lowry (University of Reading) has recently deduced that once it crosses the placenta into the mother it is processed differently; neurokinin B causes the mother’s blood pressure to rise, which means that more nutrients are able to reach the foetus. This rise in blood pressure leads directly to the condition called pre-eclampsia. 
from: www.innovations-report.com

Friday, January 10, 2014

Having a Baby Later In Life May Help You Live Longer

Pregnancy Over 40: Live Longer!

It seems the mainstream media seems to focus on all of the negative aspects of later life pregnancy, childbirth, and even parenting.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "It's selfish to have a baby over 40 because you won't be around to see your kids grow up".
My site: www.getpregnantover40.com for more encouraging information on pregnancy over 40
Well...finally here's some good news about how us older moms may live longer. I fully intend to be around to see my grandchildren! Read More:

"Good news for older moms. A new study suggests that women who delay childbearing are more likely to live longer than those who become mothers at a young age. It seems that the large amounts of estrogen released into the body when a woman becomes pregnant, may help some women live longer.

In the February 25, 2006 issue of the newspaper, The Daily Mail, scientists at the University of Manchester report that the bodies of older mothers are also likely to suffer less wear and tear than younger mothers because we tend to have fewer children. By having children late, we give our bodies a burst of estrogen which in turn helps keep skin, hair, bones and blood vessels healthy and also protects again osteoporosis.

What's interesting to note is that older parents often become older healthier parents because they want to make sure they are around for their young offspring. This means making healthy lifestyle changes such as when an older mother stops smoking, starts eating healthier, loses weight, gets more exercise, etc. These factors all add to increased longevity.

Several other studies also support this idea that older mothers may live longer than their young counterparts. The British Geriatric Society reports that there is scientific evidence that women who have children late in life live longer than young mothers. They cite better diet and lifestyle as the reason. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician at Harvard Medical School found that a "surprising number of women who gave birth in their forties were more than four times as likely to live to 100."

 from: parentingfamilies.com

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Study Shows Breastfeeding May Improve Sight

Pregnancy Over 40:  Benefits Of Nursing

I've heard about the many benefits of breastfeeding.
More articles on pregnancy over 40 and trying to conceive over 40 at: www.getpregnantover40.com 
 The benefits include increased intelligence, weight control, bonding with mom and the list goes on.   But here's a new one: breastfed babies may have better sight.
Read More:

" The researchers, from the Institute of Child Health in London, studied 262 children aged between four and six. Of these, 78 had previously been breast-fed and 184 had been given formula milk.


Some of the babies drinking bottled milk were given a type fortified with two types of fatty acids, DHA and AA.


Some scientists believe DHA, a type of omega 3 fatty acid, is behind breast milk's ability to improve children's sight.


When they were tested, the breast-fed children were significantly more likely to have better vision. Lead researcher Dr Atul Singhal said: "Our study adds to the growing evidence that breast-feeding has long-term benefits for visual development." 


from: 
from: mailonline

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Pregnancy and The AFP Test - Interpreting Results

 Alpha-fetoprotein

AFP stands for the alpha-fetoprotein test (which I didn't have when I was pregnant because I knew I was going to have an amniocentesis).
See also : www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy over 40
 However, most women are routinely offered this test which can screen for certain problems in the pregnancy and certain birth defects. Here is a good article which explains how the test works and some of the pros and cons:



From the article
 A small amount of blood is taken between the 15th and 18th weeks ofyour pregnancy. For the test to be interpreted properly, you and your health care provider need to be sure of your due date. Alpha-fetoprotein levels are highest between 15 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. After this time they slowly decrease.
It is important to have the test at the right time in your pregnancy. If the AFP level is higher or lower than normal,enough time must remain in your pregnancy for further steps. Thesesteps might include more tests and counseling.
 from patrickallen.com

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Newborn Screening: False Positives Increase Stress

 Prenatal and Postnatal Newborn Screening

We all want a perfect baby right? But what happens when one of your screening tests shows there might be a problem?
See: www.getpregnantover40.com for pregnancy over 40 articles 
 It's a sinking scary feeling...and what's worse, sometimes these tests have false positive results. Here is an article that talks about how screening can reduce stress but false results can cause unnecessary hospitalizations and wreak havoc on the parents. Read more:

New research shows screening newborns for biochemical genetic disorders may improve a child’s outcome and reduce stress in parents. However, researchers say false-positive screening results may increase stress levels in parents...

...Results also show mothers in the screened group reported lower overall stress than those in the clinically identified group. Children with false-positive results were twice as likely to be hospitalized than those with normal results. Mothers of children in the false-positive group also reported higher stress levels.

Researchers thus conclude, “This study highlights some of the challenges to current newborn screening practices. It demonstrates a need for education about newborn screening for parents prior to the birth of their child.”


from:
www.bio-medicine.org

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Early and Late Pregnancy Symptoms Which Could Signal Trouble

Early and Late Pregnancy Symptoms To Have Checked

At the risk of creating more stress for pregnant women, there are some things you should get checked out if you experience them while pregnant.
My site: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy symptoms and getting pregnant over 40
 I had a number of alarming symptoms when I was pregnant.  Some of the pregnancies with spotting ended in miscarriage, but my successful pregnancy had spotting as well.  Not all "problems" end in miscarriage, but some things can be dealt with medically so you should have them checked out.  Read more:


• Severe or persistent abdominal pain or tenderness.

• Vaginal bleeding or spotting.

• An increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge — that is, if it becomes watery, mucousy, or bloody (even if it's only pink or blood-tinged). Note: After 37 weeks, an increase in mucus discharge is normal and may indicate that you'll be going into labor soon.

• Pelvic pressure (a feeling that your baby is pushing down), lower back pain (especially if it's a new problem for you), menstrual-like cramping or abdominal pain, or more than four contractions in an hour (even if they don't hurt) before 37 weeks.

• Painful or burning urination, or little or no urination.

• Severe or persistent vomiting, or any vomiting accompanied by pain or fever.

• Chills or fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

• Visual disturbances such as double vision, blurring, dimming, flashing lights, or "floaters" (spots in your field of vision).

• Persistent or severe headache, or any headache accompanied by blurred vision, slurred speech, or numbness.

• Any swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, anything more than a little swelling in your hands, severe and sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, or a rapid weight gain (more than 4 pounds in a week).

• A persistent or severe leg cramp or calf pain that doesn't ease up when you flex your ankle and point your toes toward your nose or when you walk around, or one leg being significantly more swollen than the other.

• Trauma to the abdomen.

• Fainting, frequent dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, or heart palpitations.

• Difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or chest pain.

• Severe constipation accompanied by abdominal pain or severe diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours.

• Persistent intense itching of your torso, arms, legs, palms, or soles, or a feeling of itchiness all over your body.

from www.babycenter.com

Friday, January 03, 2014

Your Period After Pregnancy

Pregnancy Over 40, Getting Your Period After

I remember being shocked when I got my period just three months after delivery my daughter. There is a lot of variability, however, on when women get their period.  Whether or not a woman is nursing may be a big factor.
See: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on fertility, pregnancy and miscarriage
My breast milk seemed to almost completely dry up at the same time I got my period. Since I was combining breast and bottle feeding, it is possible that this is why my periods started back this soon.
Read more:

Starting Of Your First Period

If you choose to feed your baby through bottle, or combine breastfeeding with bottle-feeding, you are likely to get your first period after pregnancy about 5-6 weeks after delivery.

If you breastfeed regularly (with no bottle-feeding), you may not get your period until you cease to breastfeed. This is nature's way of protecting your body from an immediate pregnancy while your child is in infancy.

Even if your period starts while you are breastfeeding, don't expect it to be regular. It is common for your menstrual cycle to be of shorter or longer length than normal during your breastfeeding days. 

from:
pregnancy-period.com

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Having Babies May Be Good For Your Brain

Pregnancy Over 40, It's Good For Your Brain!

I have often thought I'm mentally quicker now than I was when I was younger. Well, there may be a good reason. Having babies may sharpen your mind. I know for me, as I get older, I worry about whether or not I'm going to have some sort of dementia.
See also: www.getpregnantover40.com for more on pregnancy over 40 benefits 
 Some of my older relatives have gotten dementia and there are some cases which are hereditary.  However, there are a number of factors within our control.  Having babies may be one of them!

From the article:

"Women with small children have long been saddled with an unflattering stereotype -- incompetent, dull-witted, frazzled, and preoccupied with domestic affairs. The derogatory cliches vary, from ''maternal amnesia" in medical circles, to the colloquial ''placenta brain" in the United States and ''porridge brain" in Great Britain. But a new body of research -- so far still mostly in animals -- is fueling the idea that motherhood may actually rewire the brain, making mothers (and involved fathers) more perceptive, competitive, efficient, and even socially aware. And sociological studies suggest that most of the symptoms of ''mommy brain" may be due as much to exhaustion and stress as biology.

Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts Comparing the brain of a non-mother to that of a mother is ''like comparing a tree in the winter to one in full bloom in the spring, when it is much fuller and richer," said University of Richmond neuroscientist Craig Kinsley, a leading researcher in the field.

The transforming experiences of pregnancy, labor, and caring for small children ''enables the brain to process information much differently than it did before," he said.

Kinsley and other researchers have found that beginning a few weeks after giving birth, a female rat's cognitive abilities -- particularly smell and visual perception -- start to expand. Rats nursing a litter of pups discover and catch prey three times as quickly as virgin rats, he said.

Kinsley's analysis of brain tissue from rats in late pregnancy showed that neural pathways in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory, were essentially ''remapped."

The changes, Kinsley and others said, probably come partly from the experience of pregnancy and labor, when elevated levels of estrogen, cortisol, and other hormones literally bathe the brain. The presence of pups and the demands of caring for them also contributes to brain changes in mother rats -- even caretaker rats who have never been pregnant. In repeated studies, mother rats with pups have proven to be bolder and quicker at finding hidden food.

''We believe the pups are having an effect on the mother, enhancing her efficiency," Kinsley said. ''The pups have a paw in their own survival. The mom isn't a passive caregiver. Rather, absorbing sensory information from the pups has an influence on her brain."

The phenomenon hasn't yet been studied in women, but the rodent studies have important implications for humans, said Kelly Lambert, chair of the psychology department at Randolph Macon College in Virginia.

''Rodents have all the same brain parts we have," she said. ''Human brains are thicker and more complex, but as a model it's a very reasonable place to start."

from: 
boston.com

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