Women expect the physical changes of pregnancy, yet having a baby also produces some changes in the brain.

Pregnancy alters the size and structure of brain regions involved in understanding the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and intentions of others, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Mothers with the greatest degree of overall brain change scored higher than others when tested on the strength of their maternal bonds, the researchers discovered. Many of the changes lasted two years after giving birth.

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