Mums, Stop Blaming Your Bumps for the ‘Pregnancy Brain’!

Memory lapses, or forgetfulness during pregnancy or post-partum might just be in your head

Updated
Her Health
3 min read
Time to put the age-old ‘baby brain’ complex to bed (Photo: iStock)

Pregnancy or mommy brain was a funny joke to me until I walked out of the shower without rinsing the conditioner, forgot my best friend’s birthday and lost my phone (along with my mind), all in a 24-hour period after giving birth.

I was never ditzy in my life. I am sure that the first few months after delivery, I was suffering from some mental impairment from the biological changes in my body. I know, the ‘baby brain’ (or ‘pregnancy brain’) was real.

But experts argue otherwise.

Got Baby Brain? It’s Probably Just in Your Head

Pregnancy doesn’t make women dumber! (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)
Pregnancy doesn’t make women dumber! (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)

Call it ‘preghead’, ‘pregnesia’, ‘baby brain’ or ‘momnesia’, there is immense anecdotal evidence. I remember my nani, would always groan that her brain had permanently shrunk post 5 babies! But when researchers went looking for scientific proof for this foggy-mind, they found none.

A new much-hyped study from Brigham Young University, in the United States, put a small group of 21 pregnant and post-partum women through a series of mental acuity tests, both before and after their babies were born. These results were compared with women who had no history of pregnancy.

These women were tested for memory, organisation and spatial skills. Across the board, the new mothers did just as well on the test as their non-pregnant counterparts.

The one area where they did not perform the same was the self-assessment. Pregnant and postpartum women consistently rated their memory lower than the non-pregnant participants.

So the research concluded that pregnancy does not make you forgetful, it makes you think you have lost your mind because you’re already worried about a ton of things.

Is This Study The Last Word on Pregnancy Brain?

Pregnancy brain is not a myth, it hasn’t come out of thin air either (Photo: iStock)
Pregnancy brain is not a myth, it hasn’t come out of thin air either (Photo: iStock)

Nope.

The research on the topic is mixed.

A 2011 British study done by the Cambridge University found that pregnant women score 12% lower in the memory tasks in each trimester.

Like most changes that occur during pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations are an obvious possible culprit. During pregnancy, there is 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen in a woman’s body. All these hormones interefere with the neurons in the brain. Post delivery, there is a huge surge of hormone, oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract and the body to make milk, even this affects the brain circuits.

The study concluded that pregnancy shrinks the brain up to a maximum of 6% volume and the same is reversed post 6 months of delivery. But without a larger study, or a peer-review, experts say, it is difficult to take this single study too seriously.

My gynaecologist always said, pregnancy shuffles what gets your attention. And anyone who is multitasking, not getting enough sleep or stressed will not do well on the memory scales. We all have just as many compartments in our brains, the top four are filled with baby stuff.

And no matter what the conflicting studies say, I still believe that mommy brain is a real condition! It’s probably just something which cannot be scientifically studied by manufactured tests and analysis. My formerly pregnant brain questions: If each pregnancy did not cause memory loss and women didn’t forget, would they ever have more than one kid?

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