Is “Baby Brain” a Myth?

by Alyssa Longo
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Most women say having a child is the most beautiful gift, but what comes before that isn’t so pretty. “Baby Brain”, “Pregnancy Brain”, “Momnesia”; we’ve all heard these playful terms when describing the reason why your wife, sister, or daughter forgot your birthday. But is this pregnancy-induced fog just a myth or actual science?

Pregnancy can change just about everything for a woman, including her brain. During pregnancy and shortly after becoming mothers, many women report cognitive changes, like forgetfulness, over-sensitivity, and reduced ability to focus on logical tasks. Pregnancy alters the size and structure of brain regions involved in understanding the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and intentions of others. Yet, studies examining the relationship between pregnancy (or early stages of motherhood) to changes in a woman’s ability to think, have produced conflicting results.
In the Journal of Natural Neuroscience, European researchers said, “Our data provides the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman’s brain. The changes are so clear and consistent that it’s possible to tell if a woman had a child simply by looking at her brain scans.” But there was no clear evidence of “baby brain.” While any woman who’s had a baby will attest to foggy thinking at least some of the time, the researchers say they couldn’t find any evidence of “baby-brain” in the women they examined. They scored about the same on tests of memory and vocabulary both before and after giving birth.

During pregnancy and after you become a mom, your plate is full. You’re busy, you’re stressed out, and your attention is divided and demanded by the tiny creatures in your care. Despite how it sometimes feels, your brain isn’t necessarily less efficient than it used to be; it just has so much more to process. You are more responsive to your child and less responsive to the things going on around you. Your priority is always your children — hence why you’ll probably never forget their doctor’s appointments or play dates but totally space on your own checkup or long-ago scheduled date night. (Source)
In contrast, a study out of Leiden University in the Netherlands chose 25 women who became mothers for the first time and 19 of their male partners to undergo high resolution MRI brain scans. After completing their pregnancies, these same participants were re-scanned. For comparison, 20 women who had never given birth and 17 of their male partners were also scanned at the same time intervals.
The new mothers showed a loss of gray matter in several brain areas associated with social cognition, a form of emotional intelligence.
“These areas are involved in a number of behaviors,” noted Dr. Kim Yonkers, a professor in psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine who was not involved in the new study. She explained some of these regions are involved in memory, while others are implicated in depression. Although this study showed more optimistic evidence of “baby brain” there is still so much unknown when it comes to the human brain.
So what’s the verdict?  Do you believe in baby brain?  Do you think it’s just a result of sleep deprivation? For more information check out this article:





Alyssa Longo

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