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Baby-brain a myth

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2010-02-08 -


Well ladies, the jury is apparently in – science has seemingly proven that baby-brain is nothing but a myth.

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have studied the cognitive functioning of 1,241 young women over a period of four years. They targeted four areas: cognitive speed; working memory; immediate recall; and delayed recall.

They found “no significant differences between those women who had become mothers and those who had not.” In other words, pregnancy and motherhood don’t have any detrimental affects on your cognitive capacity.

This has led to some bold statements by the study’s lead scientist, Prof Helen Christensen of the ANU’s Centre for Mental Health Research.

“Women and their partners need to be less automatic in their willingness to attribute common memory lapses to a growing or new baby,” she says.

“And obstetricians, family doctors and midwives may need to use the findings from this study to promote the fact that ‘placenta brain’ is not inevitable.

“Part of the problem is that pregnancy manuals tell women they are likely to experience memory and concentration problems, so women and their partners are primed to attribute any memory lapse to the ‘hard to miss’ physical sign of pregnancy.”

This new study flies in the face of previous studies, which have supported the baby-brain phenomenon. I read one study a couple of years ago purporting that baby-brain can last for up to a year after the child’s birth.

Prof Christensen and her colleagues suggest those previous studies were probably biased, recruiting women who already believed their memory had been affected by pregnancy or motherhood, or women who were depressed or sleep deprived.

My own personal, clearly unscientific, opinion (based on a sample size of one – me) is that pregnant women’s and new mothers’ brains are indeed affected. Here’s my theory.

Just like computers, human brains only have so much processing power and RAM at their immediate disposal. And because new and soon-to-be-new mums are absorbing an enormous amount of baby-related information – focusing so single-mindedly on their new addition – they simply don’t have the power/space to keep track of all the mundane information that life throws at them at the same time – like the shopping list.

Something has to give and, in the heighted state of motherhood, it sure isn’t going to be the baby-related stuff.

But I’m no expert, so don’t take my word for it.




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