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BeMother: How does a woman's brain change during her first pregnancy?

After a number of research projects in the field of neuroscience, BeMother was created by Dr. Òscar Vilarroya and Dr. Susanna Carmona, together with other leading researchers, to shed light on some still unanswered questions about the effects pregnancy has on women's brains.

Motherhood entails a series of biological, psychological, behavioural and social adaptations aimed at guaranteeing the survival of both the newborn and the mother. Very little is known about these changes at the brain level. How does a woman's brain adapt during pregnancy?

In a recent study, we found that pregnancy leads to substantial changes in the mother's brain that last for at least 2 years after she gives birth. These changes occur in the areas involved with empathy, and they seem to prepare the mother to face the challenges of motherhood. In particular, it was observed that the more the brain changed, the better the bond between mother and baby.

Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications of pregnancy. If not correctly diagnosed and treated, it can have long-term consequences for both mother and baby, negatively affecting the mother-baby bond and the development of the child. This data demonstrates the importance of understanding how the human brain prepares for and adapts to motherhood.

In our current study, we want to find out how the brain reorganises itself and determine whether there is a link between brain and hormonal changes and the development of postpartum mental disorders. To do this, we will assess the brains of women who want to become pregnant and we will also study same-sex couples who are not pregnant. The evaluations will be carried out before and during pregnancy, and after delivery. At each of these visits, magnetic resonance images will be made of the brain, saliva and urine samples will be taken, and questionnaires will be given to evaluate the neuropsychological aspect of the mothers.

The BeMother project is being carried out by researchers from the UAB, IMIM and IISGM, and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and the Fundació La Caixa. 

The project is currently recruiting volunteers. Eligible participants are women between the ages of 25 and 45, who have not previously been mothers, are planning to have their first baby soon, and live in Barcelona or the surrounding area. For more details on how to participate, contact us at

Clinical projects


  • Women and couples of women aged 25-45, planning their first baby and who have never had a pregnancy beyond the first trimester
Hospital del Mar Research Institute

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