Results from a series of studies suggest that childbirth can affect the female brain as the surge in sex hormones during pregnancy can influence the development of key parts of the central nervous system. Researchers looked at two of the oestrogen hormones used to treat the symptoms of menopausal women and found that they could have a complex effect on a woman depending on her age and whether or not she had previously given birth. The scientists said this might also help to bring clarity in the debate over whether hormone replacement therapy in menopausal women affects the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life. They found that a strong surge in oestrogen hormones during pregnancy can alter “neuroplasticity” (the regrowth of nerve cells) in the brain’s hippocampus, which is responsible for aspects of memory and spatial awareness. “Hormones have a profound impact on our mind. Pregnancy and motherhood are life-changing events resulting in marked alterations in the psychology and physiology of women,” Dr. Liisa Galea of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada said. “Our results argue that these factors should be taken into account when treating brain disorders in women.” She added that the findings could offer a possible explanation for observations in the human female population that have been linked with pregnancy, childbirth and hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women. For example, studies have shown that pregnant women who have given birth before have a better memory, but a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The reasons for this, however, are not yet understood.
Read the full story at The Independent.