European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Becoming a mother: An integrative model of adaptations for motherhood during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Project description

Brain and hormonal adaptations for motherhood

During pregnancy, the brain experiences important adaptations that prepare women for the challenges of motherhood. Specifically, previous studies have revealed that the social cognition brain network of pregnant women undergoes systematic modifications, which persist for at least two years after childbirth, contributing to how mothers relate with their babies. The EU-funded BEMOTHER project will develop a model of adaptations that occur in women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The project plans to establish when and how the brain is reorganised during pregnancy, the neuropsychological changes during this period, as well as identify the hormonal mediators that may participate in this brain reorganisation. The ultimate aim of the project is to integrate the neural, neuropsychological and metabolomic findings into a model of the development of maternal behaviour.


Pregnancy involves biological adaptations that are necessary for the onset, maintenance and regulation of maternal behavior. We were the first group to find (1, 2) that pregnancy is associated with consistent, pronounced and long-lasting reductions in cerebral gray matter (GM) volume in areas of the social-cognition network. The aim of BEMOTHER is to develop an integrative model of the adaptations for motherhood that occur during pregnancy and the postpartum period by: i) establishing when the brain of pregnant women begins to change and how it evolves; ii) characterizing the dynamics of cognitive performance, theory-of-mind, maternal-infant bonding and psychiatric measures; iii) assessing the effect of environmental and/or psychological factors in the maternal adaptations, iv) identifying the metabolomics biomarkers associated with maternal adaptations, and v) integrating the previous findings within the Research Domain Criteria framework (RDoC) (3). We will use a prospective longitudinal design at 5 time points (1 pre-pregnancy session, 2 intra-pregnancy sessions and 2 postpartum sessions) during which neuroimaging, psychological, behavioral and metabolomics data will be acquired in 3 groups of women: a group of nulliparous women who will be undergoing a full-term pregnancy, another group of nulliparous women whose same-sex partners will undergo a full-term pregnancy, and a group of control nulliparous women. We will provide the longitudinal RDoC-based model at the end of the study, but we will also deliver intermediate longitudinal evaluations after the postpartum session, as well as cross-sectional analyses after the first intra-pregnancy session and the postpartum session. BEMOTHER is timely and innovative. It adopts the translational RDoC framework in order to provide a pioneering, comprehensive and dynamic characterization of the adaptations for motherhood, addressing the interaction among different functional domains at different levels of analysis.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 608 531,00
08193 Cerdanyola Del Valles

See on map

Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 608 531,00

Beneficiaries (3)