Matrescence — What is it?

What happens to a woman’s psychological development when she becomes a mother? via alexandrasacksmd.com

Alexandra Sacks MD
Jul 22, 2017 · 3 min read

During matrescence, people expect you to be happy while you’re losing control over the way you look and feel.

Let’s delve deeper into “matrescence,” the transition into motherhood described in our New York Times article, “Birth of a Mother”. Like adolescence, it is a transitionary period. Being pregnant is like going through puberty all over again: your hormones go nuts, your hair and skin don’t behave the way you’d like, and you develop a new relationship with a body that seems to have a mind of its own.

The difference? Everyone understands that adolescence is an awkward phase. But during matrescence, people expect you to be happy while you’re losing control over the way you look and feel.

I’ve worked with thousands of new mothers and while each story is unique, there are some universal aspects.

From a neuroscientific point of view, the emotions of matrescence are as much about chemical shifts in your brain as they are about the stuff that science can’t explain. Estrogen and progesterone are coursing through the receptors in your brain when you lose your temper with your mother, partner, and/or friends.

Our upcoming book, The Emotional Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum, will explain the brain science behind these mood swings, and also show how your psychology (expectations, thoughts, and memories in your mind) are also at play. This means yes, there is a biologic basis for being sensitive and moody. But you’re not totally off the hook when/if you scream at people!

I’ve worked with thousands of new mothers and while each story is unique, I have noticed some universal aspects to the psychological narrative of matrescence — the emotional “through lines” that women experience, like:

Ambivalence:

Fantasy vs. Reality:

Guilt, Shame and “The Good Enough Mother”:

Intergenerational:

Competition:

Leading up to the birth of our book, What No One Tells You, I’ll be writing advice and tips for our newsletter — sign up here: alexandrasacksmd.com! Our book will help guide women from the first trimester through the first year postpartum, explaining the ups and downs in hormones, moods, and relationships — think of it as the psychological counterpart to What to Expect When You’re Expecting!

Read my other posts:

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