ABSTRACT Physiological, neurocognitive, and psychological changes facilitates adaptation to motherhood. This cross-sectional study aimed to examine differences between pregnant and non-pregnant women in affective cognitive and psychophysiological responses to infant stimuli. We hypothesized that pregnant women would display (I) reduced negative emotional reactivity and perception of distressed infant stimuli, (II) increased attention toward infants compared to adults, and (III) greater psychophysiological response to infant distress. The sample comprised 22 pregnant women (22–38 weeks gestation) and 18 non-pregnant nulliparous women. Four computerized tasks were administered to measure affective cognitive processing of infant stimuli, while recording facial expressions, electrodermal activity, and eye gazes. Results indicated that pregnant women exhibited fewer negative facial expressions, reported less frustration when exposed to distressed infant cries, and showed greater attention to emotional infant faces compared to non-pregnant women, but the differences did not remain statistically significant after correction for multiple comparisons. No differences were observed in psychophysiological responses. The findings indicate a possible pregnancy-mediated effect regarding the cognitive processing of infant stimuli, potentially as preparation for motherhood. Future research with larger samples and longitudinal design is needed to understand the predictors, timing, and plasticity of cognitive changes during pregnancy.

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