Pregnancy, while being the most natural thing in the world, is actually completely mind-blowing. It reminds us of the amazing things that the human body is capable of, like you know, growing a human being inside of it.
But what about all the weird things that happen psychologically during pregnancy? A new article in Quartz explores the science behind the mental quirks that a lot of pregnant women experience.
It turns out being more accident-prone or clumsy, is actually due to a hormone called relaxin, which is triggered in the brain when you get pregnant. As the name implies, its intended purpose is to relax the body and prepare it for expansion, but it can sometimes manifest itself in the muscles of the hands and fingers, causing more glasses to get knocked over and keys to be dropped.
Cravings are probably one of the most talked-about mental shifts during pregnancy. While 60% of women reported experiencing cravings, they haven't actually been widely studied. It's believed that cravings, particularly for salty foods, could indicate an imbalance, deficiency, or dehydration.
Moods swings are more complicated. In the first trimester, levels of estrogen and progesterone can rise up to three times higher than their peak during a regular menstrual cycle. These hormones have a big impact on the brain where serotonin and dopamine levels are regulated, making for more unpredictable moods as the brain learns to assimilate.
Of course, mood swings can also be attributed to a host of other stressors like fatigue, pain, and the anticipation of parenthood.
There's still a lot to learn about the complicated and varied ways in which women's bodies and brains respond to pregnancy, but there's no denying that it's pretty fascinating.
Read the first half of this series exploring the neuroscience of pregnancy here.
Leah Vanderveldt is an author living in Brooklyn, New York. She received her bachelor’s in communications and media from Fordham University, and is certified in culinary nutrition from the Natural Gourmet Institute. She is the author of two cookbooks: The New Nourishing and The New Porridge.
Vanderveldt is a former food editor at mindbodygreen and has previously worked for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Australian Home Beautiful.