It’s official. Pregnant women and new mums can no longer rely on the ol’ ‘baby brain’ excuse for poor memory. Apparently. Despite a significant amount of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, along with previous scientific research claiming that pregnancy does negatively impact mental acuity, a new study has revealed that it could all be in our heads.
According to a new study performed by US researchers, while new mothers and those who are pregnant may believe their memory is worse than usual, they perform just as well as other women in mental tests. Included in the 3-hour set of tests were 21 women who weren’t pregnant and had never had any children – and there were no differences between the two groups when it came to memory, thinking, attention span, organisational or spatial skills.
However, when asked how they had performed, the mums-to-be and newbie mothers significantly underestimated their scores.
So,.. if baby really isn’t stealing your brain through the umbilical cord, why do you feel as though your central command centre is one ingredient away from a lumpy bowl of porridge?
Writing in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, Professor Larson said that, based on the fact that the myth of ‘baby brain’ has been so widely perpetuated, the expectation of this supposed condition may be so strong that a pregnant woman is extra-alert to memory lapses. In other words; although forgetfulness happens no more than usual, you may simply be more aware of when the blank moments occur.
Doctors have said that surging hormones could also contribute to the negative self-assessments, as there is up to 40 times more progesterone and oestrogen in the body during pregnancy – a sure recipe for seesawing emotions and shaky judgement.
On the flip-side, others say that having a baby may actually make a woman brighter. A study from Yale University in the US found that a woman’s grey matter grows in the weeks and months after she gives birth. The theory is that hormonal changes associated with having a baby “supercharge” the brain, helping to prepare women for all the challenges that motherhood brings.
Maybe it’s time us mums ease up on ourselves – in spite of sleepless nights and multitasking in a frazzled frenzy, we’re evidently a lot more switched on than we give ourselves credit for.