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Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes


Amazing things happen in a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother, and we don’t even know half of it yet. Thankfully maternal neuroscience researchers like Dr Jodi Pawluski are making great progress in this very understudied area of science.

In this episode of MAMA, UNLEASHED! I have the absolute pleasure of delving into the brain of Dr Jodi Pawluski, a leading maternal neuroscientist, psychotherapist, and mother of two. We talk about so much, from why we must remove the negative connotations associated with baby brain, to the neuroscience of maternal mental health and how our expectations in motherhood and our understanding around maternal mental illness can influence our experience of matrescence.

In this episode you will learn: 


[4.35] About all things baby brain, pregnancy brain, lactation brain.

[5.55] Memory differences in the brain of (pregnant) mothers vs non-mothers.

[7.13] Studies show mothers’ memory improves when it comes to looking after their baby.

[9.10] We have to change the narrative and mindset that there is a deficit in the brain in motherhood.

[10.50] The mental load of motherhood – the “mother load” – evolution will have us pick the most important things

[12.24] Your brain is doing amazing things when you become a mother (or a dad).

[12.50] Neuroplasticity and the brain changes that happen in matrescence – when a woman becomes a mother.

[13.36] What areas of a mother’s brain changes in size, structure and activity, and what outcome this results in.

[18.00] Brain changes occur in all caregivers, including fathers, adoptive parents, and grandparents, but the effects of pregnancy on the brain are still the greatest in the biological mother.

[20.00] The glorification of motherhood and the expectations that come with that.

[20.23] Matrescence has many similarities to adolescence – we must also look at patrescence.

[28.15] What is going on in the brain of parents as their children get older and change?

[30.10] How postpartum depression and postnatal anxiety affect a mother’s brain.

[34.10] Postpartum depression affects the brain differently to non-postpartum depression.

[35.35] There is treatment for postpartum depression that is not medication. This can also lead to neuroplasticity and change in feelings and emotions.

[37.00] How much postpartum depression is undiagnosed because women are afraid to speak up due to stigma?

[38.20] There are 6 different types of perinatal depression – we also need to talk about postpartum rage.

[41.00] Education around becoming a mother (not just the birth!) is a must! – So much can happen during birth and early motherhood and it might not go to plan.

[44.28] The importance of knowing who you can talk to (and where to find them) after giving birth and in early motherhood.

[45.45] Exploring yourself and your roots before having a baby so you can be aware of what might come up for you emotionally in motherhood.

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About my guest DR JODI PAWLUSKI

Dr Jodi Pawluski PhD HDR is a Behavioural Neuroscientist, Therapist and Author based in Rennes, France. Her research is affiliated with the IRSET (UMR_S 1085) a research unit of the INSERM institute, the University of Rennes 1, and the EHESP School of Public Health.

For over a decade Jodi has studied the neuroscience of motherhood and the effects of perinatal mental illness and antidepressant medications on the mother and developing offspring. She regularly speaks nationally and internationally about her research findings as well as the fascinating effects of parenting on the brain.

She is a Postpartum Support International Coordinator for France and a member of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative. She is active in publishing, counselling, mentoring and advocating for improvements to perinatal mental health care.

In 2020 she started a podcast called Mommy Brain Revisited which focuses on bringing current research on the parental brain to the general public. She also regularly blogs about the neuroscience of parenting and perinatal mental health at Inspire the Mind and is the author of Mommy Brain (Larousse).

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