Delivery Care at WCG Knoxville

IS Pregnancy Brain REAL?

Is Pregnancy Brain a Real Thing?

Any woman who has been pregnant will swear pregnancy brain is a real thing – even if anecdotal evidence is their only  actual “proof.”

While it may seem to others like an old wives’ tale of sorts, quite often the butt of jokes, scientists now offer concrete evidence that forgetfulness and short-term memory loss associated with pregnancy and early motherhood is very real.

Scientific Proof that Pregnancy Brain is the Real Deal

Recent studies out of Deakin University show that pregnant women really do suffer from things like memory problems, difficulty focusing or learning new tasks and are also challenged to communicate clearly in certain situations.

This was the first study of its kind ever done, and researchers found it’s not only human women affected by “baby brain” or “pregnancy brain,” but other animal species experience it as well.

The study, recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, followed more than 700 pregnant women and 500 non-pregnant women. The women in both groups were tested on a series of identical tasks, including the memorization of numbers written out in a line. Apparently, the scientists weren’t prepared to find any significant difference in the two groups’ performance.

What they found, however, was that pregnant mothers performed markedly worse when it came to:

  • Memory
  • Planning
  • Holding attention or focus
  • Decision-making

It’s very important to note here that while they did perform “worse,” than their non-pregnant counterparts, the study’s authors stress that the pregnant group still performed well within the normal range. As the study’s co-author, Dr. Melissa Harden, was quoted:

These small reductions in performance across their pregnancy will be noticeable to the pregnant women themselves and perhaps by those close to them, manifesting mainly as minor memory lapses (e.g., forgetting or failing to book medical appointments).

Cognitive Functions are Affected by Certain Stages of Pregnancy

According to the APA, about 50% to 80% of women report experiencing memory and/or thinking problems during pregnancy.  This official news is probably no surprise to them. Equally unsurprising to women who’ve been pregnant in the past, the study found cognitive function is affected more dramatically during different stages of pregnancy.

The most significant reduction in the “grey matter” of the brain take place between the first- and second-trimesters, and it stabilizes a bit during the third-trimester. With that being said, both this and other studies have supported the idea of baby brain, with several noting that these changes last for as long as two-years after a baby is born.

Another point is that while certain areas of the brain become slightly less-active, previous studies have shown other parts of the brain  become notably more active, particularly those areas of the brain associated with decoding a baby’s facial expressions and creating an emotional bond with the baby.

So while the brain is slightly decreasing certain memory , thinking, and reasoning abilities, its simultaneously strengthening the parts of itself that are most important during the early parenting period.

Women’s Care Group looks forward to taking good care of you and baby throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery.  If you have questions, we have all the answers you’re looking for when it comes to pregnancy brain and other childbirth experiences.